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Six Ways to Generate Word-Of-Mouth Around Your Business

How to
Min Read

Check out this guest post from Melinda Curle. Melinda is a blogger at ReferralCandy and CandyBar. She loves learning about internet marketing and maintaining her own fitness blog. She enjoys running, swimming, dancing and Pilates.

When people talk about your brand, you generate excitement, publicity, and an emotional connection. This can lead to increased profits and sales. But do you know what it takes to get people talking about your brand? Jonah Berger, in his book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On examines what makes people tick. Once you understand how people think, you can influence them through proper marketing efforts.T

he book has six main topics:

  1. Social Currency
  2. Triggers
  3. Emotion
  4. Public
  5. Practical Value
  6. Stories

1. Social Currency

Social media has become so popular because it is a form of social currency where people can go to share their experiences. Sharing helps us to signal and define our identity. We tend to share our opinions, likes and viewpoints as a way of letting other people know who we are.

Often sharing helps us look good to others. Sharing the latest band or new restaurant can make us appear hip. Sharing our recent trip demonstrates how awesome our lives are.

We build up social currency through sharing and influencing others. Marketers can use social currency to build up great word-of-mouth for a product. This gives people a way to make themselves look good while promoting their product along the way.

According to Jonah Berger, there are three main ways to build social currency - through inner remarkability, leveraging game mechanics and by making people feel like special insiders.

Inner remarkability happens naturally when your product is so great that people want to share it. It is remarkable. People enjoy sharing awesome things. This will get people talking.

One example of sharing and influencing others is GoldieBlox. The GoldieBlox YouTube channel gives girls the gift of making. Sharing the experience of creating something unique is very fun. The channel has grown to over 500K followers through sharing and social proof.

The next form of social currency is through game mechanics. Games and feedback loops are fun and compelling. Therefore, marketers can implement game mechanics into their product plan. Encourage the customer to try to achieve or accrue some sort of currency. This can be done through a loyalty points program.

Game mechanics motivates consumers us on an interpersonal level. It encourages social comparison. People enjoy competing with their friends.

Game mechanics get people talking about brands because as people share their achievements, they are also talking about the brands that helped them achieve them.

Leveraging the game mechanics requires quantifying and measuring performance. There need to be metrics that are created and recorded to let people know where they stand in the game.

Finally, making people feel like insiders. This involves exclusivity and a sense of scarcity.  Scarce things are less available and in high demand. Exclusive things are accessible only to people who meet certain criteria. Having something exclusive or scarce can make you feel a bit special.

Scarcity and exclusivity also can make products seem more desirable. People love desirable things.

Marketers can take advantage of the scarcity and exclusivity principle by including words such as “limited availability” and “one time only offer.” This triggers a sense of urgency and fear of missing out on something special.

2. Triggers

Jonah analyzes the triggers that increase and drive ongoing word of mouth. Sights, smells, and sounds often trigger thoughts and ideas. These sensory things can keep things at the top of your mind. When things are top of mind, the thoughts are more likely to lead to action.

What makes a great trigger?

The key factor for a great trigger is how frequently the stimuli occur. Linking a product or idea with frequently occurring stimuli can be effective. However, if the trigger is associated with many things, it won't be as effective.  A new fresh original link will be an effective trigger.

A great example of a trigger is the 2018 Superbowl “It’s a Tide Ad” commercial. Tide honed in on the fact that people in advertisements were almost always wearing clean clothes. They pointed out that every ad was a “tide ad.” The sight of clean clothes was apparent in almost every advertisement. The phrase “It’s a tide ad” was repeated frequently thereby helping the customer associate tide with clean clothes.

As you can see, even news commentators were talking about the Super Bowl tide ad.

3. Emotion

When we care about something, we share it. Emotions drive our actions, whether they are positive or negative.

Jonah discovered that most viral articles were usually high in arousing emotions. The articles that were shared the most frequently in his analysis were articles that evoked a sense of awe, excitement, anger, amusement or even anxiety.

Although sadness is a strong emotion, it is important to note that articles that provoked the emotion of sadness were not shared.

Marketers should focus on feelings and not harp on facts. Emphasizing emotions will motivate people to action.

Marketers can tap into the emotional core of an idea. To do this, think of the reasons why you think people are doing something. Ask why it is important. Repeat this three times, and you’ll drill down further and further towards the core idea and the emotion behind it.

When deciding how to market something, select high arousal emotions. These will have a greater impact on people’s willingness to share it.

4.  Public

Observability is a factor that makes people more likely to do something when they observe someone else doing it.

“Making something more observable makes it easier to imitate. Thus a key factor in driving products to catch on is public visibility.” Jonah Berger, Contagious p.127

People will imitate those that are around them without even realizing it sometimes. Children pick up the mannerisms of their parents. Friends will adopt saying from each other. This is often referred to as “social proof.”

While you may not have realized it, you probably have noticed social proof in your life. Sometimes in bars or coffee shops, employees will place money in tip jars to encourage customers to follow suit. Initial tips are social proof that other people are tipping.

When the tip jar is empty, many people may assume that others aren’t tipping. However, when it is full, customers often assume that it is customary to tip and everyone should be doing it.

Observability can have a large impact on a product or idea. Every time a product is used in public it is observable. It can transmit social proof and passive approval to those around them. A good example of this is branding tee-shirts for events. It shows you participated and gives the company a boost.

Breast cancer awareness
Image source: CustomInk, https://www.customink.com/photos/aga-breast-cancer-awareness-5k-run-walk

Custom tee-shirts and other apparel are a great idea for events. Most people will wear the tee-shirts at the event and many times afterwards, which creates even more exposure for your brand.

5. Practical Value

People make decisions often is against economic assumptions of how they should make decisions. Often decisions and judgments aren’t rational or optimal. They are focused and based on psychological principles of how individuals perceive and process information. They will influence whether something thinks a deal is good or not.

People don’t evaluate things in terms that are absolute. They evaluate them based on comparison. They will compare similar products and use one as a reference point.

This is often noticed when sales happen. People look at the previous price and determine that it must be a great deal. It is marked down 50%. They may not realize that the value of the product isn’t even that high. Having a higher reference point makes the deal seem much better.

Marketers can take advantage of this by highlighting the value of a product. People love things that are practical. Emphasize how its pricing is of value as well.

6. Stories

People think in terms of narratives rather than information. Stories are easier to remember. Lessons and morals are taught through stories.

Consumers have become extremely skeptical of traditional advertising or people who are trying to persuade them to do things. Inserting your ad subtly into a story can help to get the message across more efficiently. Information can be disguised as idle chatter.

Jonah Berger points out that blending your advertising into a story is equivalent to building a Trojan Horse.

You will notice this is often done through copywriting in email marketing. They will share the most powerful life-changing stories and relate them to the product they are selling. As the story is emotionally triggering, it draws you in. Before you know it, you’re sold on the product.

A great example of a brand taking advantage of a story to sell their product is Nike and Colin Kaepernick. Colin Kaepernick’s story had been shared in the news over and over. It had many people talking. Nike selected Colin Kaepernick as its spokesperson.

Nike wove their brand into the fabric of the Colin Kaepernick story and increased the conversation. It triggered the emotions of the public and got plenty of people talking. The phrase was a powerful statement. It got shared and altered to fit people who didn’t even like the Nike brand or Colin Kaepernick, which raised Nike’s overall brand awareness.


These six factors that get people talking can be implemented into a marketing strategy to fit your brand. You should implement a few of them in your next marketing campaign. Test out the different ones to see which will fit your brand best.

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