What causes us to share something we have discovered online with a friend, family member or our modern version of social connections – those who follow us on Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook?
Research has been done to reveal that ideas or stories with emotional resonance and in particular ‘emotional arousal’ get shared more often. Tucked inside of Jonah Berger’s book, Contagious, is a particularly strong section on the specific types of emotional cues that trigger engagement including this quality of arousal.
Good stuff. But for the marketer how practical on a daily basis? Also, our lives are a bit more multi-dimensional that repeated tugs at our heartstrings. Some days we are just trying to find an easier softer way to get the bison onto the dinner table.
I have shared about our Principles for Social Design both here and in my FastCoCreate posts. (Now in this handy and much simplified Slideshare preso) These are learned from research and from experience. They combine planning around the messenger and how an experience is designed to make it more likely that people will pass it along.
This post unpacks the 7 Driver of Word of Mouth. The previous post did the same for the messenger or Networks of Influence.
The 7 Driver of Word of Mouth Unpacked
Value Exchange: Have we offered a clear value exchange? Will the user find some utility, entertainment, or reward by taking the time to engage with us? What will the brand get from that attention and advocacy?
We often shorthand this in conversation as the reason someone would “care to share.” Seem like common sense? Then why do marketers routinely over estimate the fascination people have for some brand experience? Do people really need another branded recipe guide? A third-rate game that features brand imagery as the backdrop? A scavenger hunt to unearth the product attributes in a playful way?
We all need help getting through the day. Why don’t USB drives have an external display of space remaining? That would be useful. Brands have the unprecedented opportunity to distill insights from social listening and other sources to better understand what would be valuable to people. Let’s do more of that and less post-justification of our snazzy brand campaign and how much people will dig it.
Disruptive Ideas: Have we surprised or challenged expectations?
This is the advertising creative’s gift to mankind. Most award-winning advertising strives to have some cultural tension at the center of it where the advertising shines a light and even turns it on its head. But how do you find a disrupting idea? This is the art and science of creativity in marketing that is difficult to bottle up and sell.
In simplistic terms, first find a cultural tension:
- Discover everyday issues and struggles that may illicit mixed emotions
- Use insights from research and social intelligence to get to a ‘truth’
Next, find a way to disrupt it:
- Define a role the brand can play
- Offer a compelling point of view
- Challenge conventional thinking
I know. Not a very satisfying recipe. Finding that just-right disruptive idea (like Dove’s Ad Makeover) is a bit like pornography – we’ll know it when we see it.
Great Story: Do we have a great story with emotional and rational interest?
Back to emotion. The research tells us that emotion rules the day in so much of our decision-making. Often, we will post justify the emotional decision we made with a bunch of facts this the reason we ought to give both. Still, I am amazed at how many marketers insist on sticking to the facts. Electronics firms do this all the time when trying to convince people to but their new mobile phone or laptop. The feature wars are over. It’s all about the emotion.
My favorite quote recently from a communications professional was, “Public relations is so much more than storytelling.” You can just riff endlessly on this, “Marketing is so much more than storytelling.” “Great presentations are so much more that storytelling.”
Call it the story backlash. What it doesn’t change is the fact that we all do love a good story. Thinking and communicating in stories matters when we are trying to inspire people to share or relay our ideas through their online and offline social graph. It’s way easier to share a good story then some marketing “messages.”
Douglas Van Praet has a good series in FastCoCreate where he discovers his own 6 drivers of decisions. A lot of what he talks about is the power of emotion and the unconscious mind.
“For too long, standard marketing theory has had it backwards. The most startling truth is we don’t even think our way to logical solutions. We feel our way to reason. Emotions are the substrate, the base layer of neural circuitry underpinning even rational deliberation. Emotions don’t hinder decisions. They constitute the foundation on which they’re made!”
Fresh Interest: Do we have something new or interesting to talk about?
Who doesn’t like something unusual to share even if about a product or a brand? Turns out loads of people like that. I remember telling a bunch of hiker friends about the bug shielding qualities of Avon’s Skin So Soft. My social capital went “ca-ching.”
If we want people to talk about us, then lets give them something to talk about and in a form they can share.
Finding fresh interest is every marketer’s challenge. We wrestle with the truth behind “new and improved” claims when the facts are not all that much is new. In advertising, the creative can “punt” on this issue. Seen enough times an advert will make it’s impression regardless of the quality of the “newness.” Not so much in social. If we want people to remark to friends about the new lip balm, we may really have to re-design it in this cool little screw top ball…..
Social Proof: Can people show their involvement such that others can see?
Robert Cialdini documented significant shifts in behavior when people were confronted with messaging and/or evidence that others – turned their thermostat down, recycled plastics, took 3 minute showers, and so forth.
Given a choice between A or B, many times we will look to how others chose. Sure it’s a form of conformity and we all do it so get over it. When we display what other have done given a choice or a set of behaviors, we make it easier for people to decide. This comes to life in the New York Times most emailed articles and Amazon product reviews (“most people gave it 4 stars”). I would argue that social norms are a related and useful concept, especially when we are talking about changing behaviors. Being able to say that most people in Monroe County click their seatbelts on immediately upon getting into the car in order to motivate others to do so is a form of social proof.
Creative Participation: Do we invite people to play a creative role?
- Create an experience that involves people
- Ask them to be creative
- Involve people in the story-telling and content creation
Then they will be more likely to become invested in the process and outcome and share it. In Cialdini’s work, he talks about the persuasive power of public consistency. When I publish a badge that declares my support for heart disease prevention, then I am more likely to give to that cause (or take a supporting action_ when called to do so. I would argue that when someone nominates or votes in the Chengdu Pambassador program – all public actions showing up in our Facebook timelines – that is a form of public commitment that can spark future actions.
If I took the time to submit my child’s photo to the Gerber baby contest, I will likely promote that program. These are all creative roles. We need to be conscious of different levels of commitment. Not everyone will go so far as to submit the picture. But they may vote on a series of images. Or they may send an email with a link to friend with a particularly cute baby. We think in terms of a “ladder of engagement” where there are simple, five-second things to do at one end and more complex, time intensive things to do at the other end. The Forrester “Technographics” data set seems to reveal that there are demographic tendencies for who will do something intensive like create and submit a video in a contest, for example. That guidance can help set up the right ladder and avoid common problems like building a program that expects 55+ women in the middle of the country to create five minute video submissions.
Simple Advocacy: Do we remind people to share and make it easy?
If we want people to share something or even to take an action, we ought to clearly ask them to do so and them remind them to do it. We also, ought to make it as easy as possible. We ought to have a reckoning when it comes to UX and UI design. It's time we set aside all pretensions and embrace the art of making things clear and easy. Remember the Heath Brothers in Switch. They talk about Shaping the Path and within that gestalt, Tweaking the Environment.
Have we been ruthless in our design and persistent (but not annoying) in our 'ask?'