Take a minute to learn how social currency, triggers, and emotion can help you take your word of mouth marketing strategy to the next level, and watch our detailed overview of the book Contagious by Jonah Berger.
Now that you're up to speed, let's explore how your company can use public visibility and practical value to become contagious.
- Practical Value
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My husband and I recently moved to a small town in California. Because we’re new to the area, we search for everything we do on Google — best restaurant, dentist, bowling alley, etc. And since we don’t know anyone who can give recommendations or validate Google’s answers, we just trust the results Google gives us. If it’s at the top of the search and has good reviews, that’s our choice.
This is why Berger emphasizes the importance of being publicly visible. If your brand is doing everything else right but it’s hidden, how will people find out about it? Your brand needs to be visible, both in the physical world and online, to be successful.
Insight #1: Make Your Brand Visible
Berger dives into the psychology of imitation and explains, "It's been said that when people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate one another. We look to others for information about what is right or good to do in a given situation, and this social proof shapes everything from the products we buy to the candidates we vote for."
Think about it. When you want to buy a new product or service, where do you turn first? You probably ask a friend or family member what they use. Then, you expand your search online to see what people outside your circle of influence think.
For a potential customer to imitate the behavior of a current customer, their behavior needs to be visible. Not only that, but your brand should be publicly visible as well.
Ask yourself the following questions to analyze how visible your brand currently is:
- What do I arm my customers with to show off my product or service? What swag can I give to my customers that they’d use or wear?
- Does my physical product have my brand on it so people know it’s from me?
- How can I encourage my customers to make their relationship with my brand public?
- How do potential customers recognize my brand? Where are they seeing my brand name or logo on a regular basis?
- Does my email signature currently include my brand name and logo?
- What keywords do I currently rank for? What searches do I want to rank for?
Action Item Ideas
Set up your Google My Business account. Collect reviews, both on Google and third party sites. Begin sharing those reviews on your website, social media, sales materials, etc.
Design and print swag to give to customers and employees. Stickers are a great way to start a swag collection on a budget.
Update email signatures
Add your brand name and logo to your email signature. Ask your employees to do the same.
Identify target searches
Make a list of searches you want your company to rank for on Google. Type those searches into Google and see where you currently rank. Click on competitor pages that are ranking to see keywords they’re using.
Perform keyword research
Use a keyword research tool to figure out what keywords to add to different pages of your website. Adjust your messaging accordingly.
Insight #2: Take Advantage of Social Influence
Berger researched and analyzed a variety of different scenarios where something caught on, and he concluded, "Social influence was stronger when behavior was more observable.” The more obvious and apparent a behavior is, the stronger it will influence others’ decisions.
This is an important principle to keep in mind when timing a sales pitch or a referral contact. If someone can walk outside and see their neighbor smiling while their solar panels are being installed, social influence will be stronger. That’s the moment to make the pitch.
Answer these questions and brainstorm how you might better take advantage of social influence:
- At what point in a customer’s journey am I contacting their referrals?
- Am I selling my product or service in a location where I can point out others who are current customers?
Action Item Ideas
Download several different video testimonials and reviews onto your phone. Show them to potential customers during a sales pitch.
Attending trade shows and events can be a great opportunity to showcase your product in action through live demonstrations. Invite your current customers to attend so potential customers can meet with them and ask them questions.
Work with influencers
Collaborate with influencers. Choose an influencer who is a thought leader within your respective industry. Ask them to use and review your product or service honestly and allow them creative reign. People will trust the influencer’s opinion if they can tell it is unscripted and sincere.
Flash back to my first Christmas with my husband. I was looking online for gift ideas, and I found the perfect thing - a beard bib. It is worn around a man’s neck and attaches to the mirror, so when he shaves, it catches all the beard hair. No more random beard hairs on the bathroom sink. Was it the most fun or exciting gift? Probably not. But it solved a problem, and to this day, it is one of the most-used items I ever bought my husband.
While social currency and emotion are important factors to virality, many things catch on that are not exciting or sexy. We like to be entertained, but we also like to have our problems solved and our lives made easier, which is why ideas that have practical value can also be contagious.
Insight #1: Offer Enticing Deals
Berger points out that something we all find both practical and valuable is a good deal. When you find a good deal, you want to share it with others. Sharing advice makes people feel good, and it makes them seem in-the-know, increasing social currency along the way. But there are so many deals out there. How can your brand’s deal stand out and be worth sharing?
Berger shares five ways a deal can “cut through the clutter to be shared.”
- Offer surprising promotions
- Place a time restriction on the deal
- Add a quantity limit to the sale
- Restrict who qualifies for the deal
- Make the practical value visible
Ask yourself these questions to help your deals cut through the clutter:
- How often am I offering discounts or deals?
- Are those discounts limited in quantity? Are those discounts restricted to certain people? Is there a time restriction on the deal?
- How is the deal being displayed? Is the practical value visible?
Action Item Ideas
Add promotion language to deals
Find where your current promotions are publicly visible. Make sure promotion language is being used. A study Berger examined showed that “...using the word 'sale' beside a price increased sales even though the price itself stayed the same." Don’t be afraid to label items or services as “Promotion!” or “Limited time only!” or “Sale!”
Follow the Rule of 100
Be sure to display your discounts following the Rule of 100. If the price is over $100, display the discount in dollar amounts. If the price is under $100, display the discount as a percentage.
Adjust deals accordingly
If needed, follow Berger’s advice above and place a time restriction, add a quantity limit, and/or restrict who qualifies for the deal.
Insight #2: Demonstrate a Solution
Information will also be shared if it is useful. Demonstrate how your product or service solves a problem. You will most likely remind a person of someone they know who is experiencing that problem and needs the solution you provide. As Berger so perfectly puts it, “Practical advice is shareable advice.”
Answer the following questions to brainstorm how you might demonstrate your product’s or service’s solution to a problem:
- How am I educating current customers? How am I educating potential customers about the industry in general?
- What specific problems does my product or service solve?
- How can I demonstrate the problem I solve in a storytelling format?
- How am I packaging information? Is it long and confusing or short and punchy?
Action Item Ideas
Send a regular newsletter
A newsletter is a great place to share practical information. If you don’t have a section that shares practical advice, add one.
Package practical information to be easily shareable
Find the places where you currently share practical information. Figure out how to package it in a way that is easily shareable. Instead of a long webpage, perhaps short steps with links to videos would be easier to comprehend. Instead of a long email, maybe a downloadable step-by-step PDF would be easier to follow.
Create a YouTube channel
Start a YouTube channel. Upload long videos and YouTube shorts that demonstrate how your product or service solves a problem. Be sure to add a description and hashtags to each video to optimize it for search engines.
Share how-to videos on social media
Post how-to videos to social media. Start taking advantage of the social media “live” features, which allow you to show people how your product works and answer questions in real time.
Present solutions in workshops
Host interactive workshops and webinars. Reach out to your customers and invite them to attend to learn a specific skill, how to solve a certain problem, or how to use your product more effectively.
Build downloadable how-to guides
Write how-to guides that are easy to read and visually appealing. Canva is a great free resource with templates that will help you create comprehensive and eye-catching guides.