Harnessing the power of word-of-mouse


Every marketer knows that “viral” is the holy grail for any marketing campaign.  We all want to experience the success that comes when a marketing campaign “goes viral”.

Think of the Old Spice guy video (24 million views in 36 hours), or Fiat’s “Papi” music video featuring Jennifer Lopez (1.8 million views in 24 hours).  Advertising Age runs a weekly “top 10” list of branded viral videos, and published a list of the top viral videos of YouTube’s first five years (2005-2010) last year. 

Notice anything about the list besides the fact that the videos are filled with celebrities, licensed pop music, and high production values?  All except one of them (ok, so it’s #1 on the list) carries a brand name that you’d have recognized whether you’d seen the video or not – and all of them are consumer brands, not B2B products. The one that isn’t a huge, well-heeled company (Blendtec) isn’t exactly a small business, though. 

The Blendtec strategy (destroying things like iPads and iPhones in their kitchen blender products to demonstrate how well the blades work) isn’t likely to be particularly effective for other products, either. 

The truth is that viral promotion isn’t simple, and it isn’t usually based on a single tactic like a funny video.  It’s part of a comprehensive social media strategy supported by tactics related to specific goals.  So can you get your content to “go viral” without spending a fortune?  Can B2B marketers use viral marketing tactics?  Sure.

Thankfully, you don’t need millions of hits or even a catchy video to harness the power of word-of-mouse to build your brand and sell products. So what do you need?

  1. A consistent social media strategy.   Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Reddit: these are the big five of today’s social media.  If you aren’t using them every single day to deliver interesting, catchy, valuable content to as many people as possible then you aren’t using the medium successfully.  Keep your tweets short (<110 characters, including the link URL if possible) to leave room for hashtags (those funny little # signs with keywords) at the end as well as a place for retweeters to add a short comment .
  2. Great multimedia.  Videos and images grab attention and encourage sharing.  Even if you’re budget constrained, there are a number of places to get great, free graphics, animations, cartoons and photographs – and you can probably take amazing photos yourself.  Some of the most amazing and memorable images in marketing history came about because a creative, but cash-poor marketer decided to make do with what they had.  The Anne Geddes baby photos came about because there was a shortage of models on the sheep ranch in North Queensland where she lived – but her sister could sew costumes and had a cute baby.  William Wegman photographed his dog Man Ray in a series of  test compositions – the intention was to replace the dog with a model at some point, but Man Ray’s deadpan look no matter what bizarre post Wegman put him in turned into an icon of the art photography world and earned millions.
  3. Generosity and gratitude.  Be generous in sharing other people’s content – and say thank you when they share yours.  It sounds silly, but unless you’re Pepsi or Apple and have millions of retweets and likes, there’s no excuse for not saying thank you when people do you a favor.  (There are tools that automate the process — and even if you don’t automate it, it takes just seconds to type “thank you!” and hit the send button.)  And if the only things you ever share through social media have “me, my, mine” written all over them, your long-term success will be limited.  (Nobody is that interesting every single day.) 
  4. An emotional reaction.  Think about what makes you share online content.  Isn’t it when you think, “Awww…”, laugh out loud, or get angry?  Unless you’re a politician, it’s the first two – cuteness and humor – that are likely to be your best friends online.  Plain old fashioned creativity is your friend here. 
  5. Personal value.  Being helpful is a basic human urge. Self-help content – that is tips and techniques that people can use to achieve some goal – gets shared.  It really is that simple.  So instead of promoting your product’s features, focus on its benefits, and express those benefits in simple, people-focused language.

We’ll be covering more tips and techniques for getting your content to go viral during a Nov. 15 webinar sponsored by MyPRGenie and The Distributed Marketing Blog.  For more information or to register now, click here. 

About debmcalister

I'm a Dallas-based marketing consultant and writer, who specializes in helping start-up technology companies grow. I write (books, articles, and blogs) about marketing, technology, and social media. This blog is about all of those -- and the funny ways in which they interesect with everyday life. It's also the place where I publish general articles on topics that interest me -- including commentary about the acting and film communities, since I have both a son and grandson who are performers.
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2 Responses to Harnessing the power of word-of-mouse

  1. Danusia says:

    It was your blog post title that made me want to read this. Now, why didn’t we (Rentokil) think of that 😉

    I think #3 is important. After all, it’s always lovely to hear someone say “thank you” isn’t it? Also, I had never seen Anne’s pictures before, but they are truly stunning. So thank you for mentioning her website.

    • debmcalister says:

      Thanks, Danusia! I can’t take credit for the phrase “word-of-mouse” — I first heard it in a Hubspot webinar a couple of years ago, but I think it’s been around for quite awhile.

      I’m glad you stopped by and left your comment! Regards, Deb

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