4 Social Media Methods for Generating Word of Mouth

Want to get people talking? Want to use social media to generate word of mouth? Here’s a secret: there are really only 4 ways to do it:

Social Media Tool #1:  Value

I don’t know about you, but I could go for a Grand Slam Breakfast from Denny’s. Mmmmm. Bacon and eggs. The truth is, I stayed far away from Denny’s – until they offered me a free meal. How about two pieces of Kentucky Grilled Chicken? Or a Starbucks iced coffee?. All free. Get yours today only. Hurry!

The reality is,  “free” has become the fastest, shortest route to creating demand. Free used to be a brand cheapener. Now it’s a brand’s best friend. Post-recession, it’s even cool again to cut coupons (buyers redeemed 3.3 billion coupons in 2009, a 27% increase from the year before).

Marketers have realized that if you provide incredible value, consumers will line up around the block for you. Of course, you’ll probably run out of chicken, which is exactly the fantastic PR you were hoping for.

Social Media Tool #2: Status

In the early days of the Internet, it was hip to be anonymous. Take Post Secret, for example. You could send them a postcard and share your dirtiest, darkest little secret with the world, without anyone knowing about it.

Today, no one wants to be anonymous. Our social media economy has forced us to prove who we know and where we go. Our value is derived from status – and the more public that is, the better. How many Facebook friends do you have or Twitter followers? Do you wear the badge of honor that comes with more than 500 connections on LinkedIn? Are you a top 100 Blogger? Do you have the Porky or Hustler badge on Foursquare? How many rakes did you get in Farmville?

The key to status is everyone wants to share it. And the more you have it, the more you’ll do just that. If you make it simple for people to share their connectivity, there won’t be a tight lip in the house.


Social Media Tool #3: Scarcity

Nothing gets people talking like something they can’t get their hands on. Years ago, Google launched Gmail as an invitation-only experience. You had to know someone who knew someone to get your own account, which came with 5 – only 5 – invitations you could share with your favorite friends. Limited supply not only made you choose wisely, but also created infinite demand.

Were you one of hundreds that slept on the sidewalk outside an Apple store to get one of the very first iPhone 4s? Pretty soon every man, woman and child in the Northern Hemisphere will have an iPhone 4, but right now they’re scarce – and that makes sleeping on grubby concrete for 3 nights straight worth it.

Generating scarcity is simple. Create less of what you have, not more – and tell people about it. Make a waiting list for people who want to use your service, like Rent the Runway. Maybe you should only offer 1 product a day, like Woot or Groupon.


Social Media Tool #4: Exclusivity

Finally, if you’re going to get people talking, try yanking the exclusivity chain. It’s what makes you jealous when someone whips out their Black Platinum Centurion Diamond credit card, or why you feel so special eating tasteless tiny no-crust hummus sandwiches in the British Airways Club Lounge. Exclusivity is the velvet rope of social media: everyone wants to be special enough to be on the right side of it.

But exclusivity isn’t limited to stuff. Information and knowledge can be the basis for incredible chatter. Why do we all want to talk about the secret ingredient in Coca Cola (it’s water, silly!)

Maybe you were like me and you had to tell someone about the secret Konami code for getting unicorns and rainbows to appear on ESPN.com. The fact is, we all want to know what we don’t, and if you have a secret, it’s probably worth sharing with someone else.

So put your marketing plan to the test – the shortcut to getting people to talk about you is to use one of the 4 methods. Otherwise you risk your social media being, well, a pretty lonely affair.


This post was written by Dave Balter, founder and CEO of BzzAgent, and author of two books on word of mouth marketing.




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