Elusive and coveted like the viral video, great word-of-mouth marketing seems difficult to predict and perpetuate. Or is it?
Word of mouth or, more generally, social influence is a highly effective yet underutilized tool for marketing. In his book Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior, Jonah Berger explains how deeply social influence is ingrained in every human. Jonah is also the NYT bestselling author of Contagious and marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Here's a little psychology 101 for marketers. Whether we’re aware of it or not, we’re constantly influenced by what our family members, coworkers, or neighbors say and do — and purchase. Jonah says we humans are always trying to balance our innate conflicting needs to fit in, but also feel unique.
From his book's website:
"If you’re like most people, you think that your choices and behaviors are driven by your individual, personal tastes, and opinions. You wear a certain jacket because you liked the way it looked. You picked a particular career because you found it interesting. The notion that our choices are driven by our own personal thoughts and opinions is patently obvious. Right? Wrong.
Without our realizing it, other people’s behavior has a huge influence on everything we do at every moment of our lives, from the mundane to the momentous occasion. Even strangers have a startling impact on our judgments and decisions: our attitudes toward a welfare policy shift if we’re told it is supported by Democrats versus Republicans (even though the policy is the same in both cases)."
All of this has implications for marketing to consumers. With more social media tools, a more educated audience, and the increasing influence of online reviews, “Marketers are really starting to not only think about products and what they’re good at, but about putting the customer in the center,” says Jonah. Marketers now have an unprecedented opportunity to leverage the power of social influence for digital marketing.
On this week’s episode of the Marketing Cloudcast — the marketing podcast from Salesforce — we interview Jonah on how to harness the impressive power of influence and use word-of-mouth marketing to grow your sales.
Take a listen here:
You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Jonah.
“Looking around the world, there’s only one place we never seem to see influence — and that is ourselves," says Jonah.
It’s easy to recognize a friend or family member following a trend, but how often do we recognize that we are doing the same thing? Jonah says it's much easier for us to see influence in other people than ourselves, even though we're all influenced by others. Making influence a more important part of your marketing starts with understanding how it works within ourselves.
Stop and think: When do you ask friends for advice? Which types of products lead you to peruse Amazon reviews? Which neighbor or Instagram account do you consider a leader in your own social circle?
Jonah explains, “I think organizations get so caught up in the technology that they forgot about the psychology.”
Before you send an email, coupon code, or social message, you first need to understand the psychology of sharing. What makes people share? How do people in your audience respond to different types of content? Why do people choose a YouTube video to send their friends on Facebook? Jonah says all of these audience factors can be researched and studied for maximum marketing success.
“Word of mouth is not random. It’s not luck, and it’s not chance. There’s a science behind why people talk and share," advises Jonah.
In the full podcast, Jonah goes into more detail of six key drivers that explain why people share content: social currency, triggers, emotion, public, practical value, and stories. Understanding these six elements and mastering how to use them will help your brand create content that's irresistible to word-of-mouth spread.
Jonah shares, “Stories are much more engaging [than plain marketing]. Essentially they are the currency of conversation."
Whether it's a video or a conference session, you’re much more likely to pay attention if someone tells you a story. When someone shares their own experience about a product or service with their peers, the brand becomes part of the narrative — and that story and brand are forever connected in the listeners' minds.
As Jonah points out, “successful brands have figured out how to do that effectively.” For example, word-of-mouth offers entice customers to share your company with others in return for a discount or other perks.
SoulCycle recently offered a free class to members who got their friends to sign up for their first class. What better way to encourage a friend to join you for a workout class than to explain your personal love of the class or a particular instructor, or even how you met fitness goals after regular attendance? Asking your customers to share your product with others is an incredibly powerful CTA.
“Instead of focusing on a small group of people, I think it’s more important to think: what’s going to make anyone want to share our message?” says Jonah.
Influencer marketing is "the ability for brands to connect with influencers to create more authentic content that resonates with consumers," according to one expert. Ideally these influencers have exceptionally large audiences.
Influencer marketing is a valuable tactic, but you also want your customers to be among your best advocates. Jonah says only about 7% of word of mouth happens online. The rest is in offline conversations that can't be tracked. Almost everyone has friends and family that listen to their opinion about products and services. So think about all types of influencers — whether they have 10 followers or 10,000.
And that’s just scratching the surface of our conversation with Jonah Berger (@j1berger). Get the complete low down on social influence and how to use it in this episode of the Marketing Cloudcast.
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