Join Jonah Berger for an in-depth discussion in this video Word-of-mouth marketing, part of Jonah Berger on Viral Marketing.
Companies and organizations used to rely on advertising to get their ideas out there. But did you know there's a much cheaper and cost effective way to do it? If you can figure out how to get regular people to spread your ideas for you, it'll be much more effective. Word of mouth is a powerful tool. And it's ten times as effective as traditional advertising. There are two key reasons why word of mouth works. The first is trust. We tend to trust our friends, but we tend not to trust ads. Ads say something like nine out of ten dentists love this toothpaste.
Or four out of five people gave this movie two thumbs up. You ever seen an ad that says one out of ten dentists love this toothpaste? Or this toothpaste is terrible and it will rot you teeth? No. But because ads always say the product is good, because information that comes from companies always suggests that their product is great, their idea is revolutionary, or their movement is really important to join, people have learned not to believe the things that companies say. They're much more likely to believe their friends, because they know they can trust their friends. Their friends will give it to them straight. Their friends will say, hey this product was great, or, hey it's terrible.
And so they're much more likely to believe their friends. But the second benefit of word of mouth is a little more nuanced. That's the targeting benefit of word of mouth. How do you find new customers, or new supporters for your idea? It's difficult, hard to find new folks, and it's hard to know where the right place to look. What if you could use your existing customers to do it for you? What if you use, could use your existing supporters to find you new ones? Well that's what word of mouth does very effectively. A great example of this happened to me a couple years ago. Publishers often send academics books in the mail, with the hope that we'll assign those books to our classes, and they'll make more money in the process.
But this time a publisher sent me two copies of the exact same book. Now let me tell you, the book wasn't any better the second time around, so why the second copy? Well they said, hey Professor Berger, we think you'll like this book. But we also think you'll know someone else who'll like this book. Pass the second copy on to them. Rather than them doing the work to find the people, they were using their customers to do it for them. And that make sense, because people tend to be friends with other people like them. If you play golf, you don't play golf alone, you play golf with someone else that plays golf.
If you're an environmentalist, you probably know other environmentalists as well. And so using this idea of homophily, the fact that people tend to be friends with similar others, is a great way to help you new people to support your cause. People that come in through word of mouth are almost 15 times more effective, long run, than people that come in through advertising. So how can you apply this idea yourself? How can you use this notion of giving away too? You don't just have to give away two of your product, but the idea is how can you use your existing customers as advocates? How can you use people that already support your cause, and help use them to get you to bring new people in? What can you give them that they can pass along to the right people? That will then activate those people, and cause them to come and join your cause.
Word of mouth is a powerful tool, if you can figure out how to use it effectively.
- Word-of-mouth marketing
- Harnessing the power of social media
- What makes content go viral
- Why people share some stories more than others
- Telling stories that carry your message