Building “Word Of Mouth” Capabilities Into Online Apps

Andy Sernovitz
Originally uploaded by christophercarfi.

Had a chance to meet Andy Sernovitz in Chicago a few weeks back (along with some other great folks). Andy is the CEO of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, also known as WOMMA.

Have been flipping through his new book on word of mouth marketing, and there are a number of good points and checklists. The one he keeps coming back to: “Put a tell-a-friend form on every page of your website.” (Just checked, and yes, the WOMMA site does this. Excellent consistency!)

Some other things on Andy’s list:

  • Create a blog
  • Put a special offer in an easily forwardable email
  • Come up with one buzzworthy topic — keep it simple
  • Let your talkers sign up for a private newsletter
  • Do something unexpected
  • Be nice

From the “eating our own dogfood” department, here are three examples of ways we’ve built these kinds of tools into Haystack networking.

Number 1: Every network has a “SHARE URL” link

Every network our customers create has a SHARE URL link built in, that allows them — or anyone viewing the network — to send the URL to a colleague easily and quickly. One click, it’s selected, and can be copy-pasted into an email. Simple, fast.

Here’s an example from the Social Media Club haystack.


Number 2: The “Invite” link

Every person registered on the system can also invite others to join the Haystacks to which they belong with two clicks. (We limit the number of invitations to discourage spammers, and only registered users can send invitations.)

Here’s an example from the Speakers Wiki haystack.


Number 3: I can’t tell you about Number 3 yet. It’s in final testing this week prior to the holiday here in the States, but the early feedback is that it’s a big winner, perhaps even game-changing in the business social networking space. If you’re subscribed you’ll know about it as soon as it’s public when we release it into the wild next week.

Why You Lost That Deal

GREAT post from Mary Schmidt, outlining her top reasons why she picks one vendor over another. Some of the faves:

“#7. You did more talking than I did in our first meeting.

#9. You talk about “solutions” but never tell me how you’re going to solve my problem.

#11. You only call or email when you’re trying to sell me something.

#14. You treated my friend, neighbor, blogging buddy, family badly.

#15. You disrespect/attack your competitors.”

Read the whole thing.

(shameless plug: we’ve done hundreds of these types of win/loss analysis interviews over the last four years. and, to paraphrase tolstoy, every lost deal is lost differently…)

Marketing Borat

The three best paragraphs I’ve read today, from the Lefsetz Letter, regarding the marketing of the Borat movie:

“If you want success today, create something good. Seed the early adopters. And then cease, or at least slow down, your marketing. Because the more you beat people over the head, the less attention they’re going to pay. THEY want to feel in control, THEY don’t want to feel tools of the system. THEY want to embrace the project.

This frightens the purveyors. Because they can nail marketing, but QUALITY? Look at the flicks, they truly suck. Ask the man on the street, he thinks music sucks TOO! To the point where most people have tuned out, and the only people who can bring them back are their buds, who have a RELATIONSHIP with them. Believe me, the marketers at Fox don’t have a relationship with their audience. They THINK they do, but they don’t.

Hearing the movie’s good, I’m gonna give it a chance. Then again, if Fox keeps trumpeting the story, they’re gonna kill MY word of mouth, I don’t want to work for the man. And neither does the Net generation. WE make the stars, not you. Give us reasonable choices, WE’LL do the work. It won’t happen instantly. First week grosses, first week SoundScan numbers, are no longer important. It’s about longevity. It won’t take forever, because word of mouth happens so quickly on the Net, and we’re all in touch with SO many more people on a regular basis. But it’s now our game, not yours, don’t ever forget it.”

Spot. On.

(via Joseph Jaffe)

For Your Radar: The “Economics Of Abundance”

Canary_coal_mineIn a nutshell: Economics, economies and economic theory have all been based on economics of scarcity. That is, scarcity drives the “laws” of economics. A number of things have hit the radar over the last few months that are of note:

Chris Anderson (author of “The Long Tail”): The Economics of Abundance — The speech that Anderson made at Pop!Tech this year.

Mike Masnick: The Scarcity Myth

Nick Carr: Knockoffs roil Second Life – A great example of what happens when one tries to force-fit an economic model based on scarcity into an environment where information is free.

David Hornik: Tough Choices

This idea is going to hit the mainstream press and boardrooms in a big way in 2007.

photo credit. firedoglake

Google’s Marissa Mayer Talks About Google’s Strategy At The Harvard Cyberposium

This morning am at Harvard’s Cyber|West conference, which is running concurrently with the Cyberposium. Keynote was by Google’s Marissa Mayer, talking about Google’s strategy. Many of her points tied to the same points that Eric Schmidt made at Web 2.0 earlier this week, and echoed the theme that “although Google’s process appears chaotic, our strategy is not.” Their strategy ties to four main points:

  • More Content
  • Easier Computing
  • Personalization
  • Better Search

More on these below.

“More Content”

  • The web is important, and indexing books is also important. Books are (usually) vetted, fact-checked. “Google Book Search is “our moon shot.”
  • In 10 years, all digital information online and searchable
  • Google is developing page-turning robots that turn pages, take photos, then do OCR (optical character recognition) of the words on the page, which can then be indexed.
  • Google Earth is also an example of “more content.” Satellite image + user-tagged locations are important, and a melding of Google-created content and user created content.
  • Branching out more and more about more types of information

“Easier Computing”

  • If easier to use computers, people will use google more
  • Muni wifi…when people have free access, they use the internet more
  • “What’s good for the web is good for google”
  • “Google Pack” – google toolbar, desktop, picasa, google earth, etc., and bundle them into a single download, three clicks to set up
  • Google docs and spreadsheets … “easier to create documents and spreadsheets”


  • “Implicit search”…bring interesting content without asking for it
  • Personalized homepage … make it your own
  • Gadgets, API to create, able to syndicate (can add to own homepage)
  • Google notebook … research tool
  • Custom search engine

Why are we doing all these things?

Common theme ties all the issues initiatives together…”although our efforts look chaotic, they all tie to the four key themes in our strategy”


Q: There are a lot of opportunities around social networking…but outside Orkut, there doesn’t seem to be a lot going on
A: Our social networking efforts have been well-recieved, and we’re the social network of choice in a particular geography (e.g. Brazil and India for Orkut). If you look at YouTube and Google Video, they are social networking sites. Content creation and socialization go hand-in-hand. When we look at these applications (GV, docs, spreadsheets, etc.), we make it easy to share them with your contacts, AND publish to the world if you choose to. We have intrinsic social networking coming in more products. “Content creation is a social act.”

Q: Why don’t all the products all work together?
A: We develop in parallel, see what works, then integrate over time.

Q: How is Google advertising different?
A: We have several hundred thousand advertisers. With text-based ads, we lowered the cost of production (instead of a graphic production house to spend several weeks). We also increased the relevance.

Q: What aspect of the business model is tied to others building tools on Google’s tools, and allow developers to use Google as a platform?
A: Gadgets–we do have the ability for companies to use us as a distribution platform. Google Web Toolkit…takes Java, turns to it Javascript to run inside the browser?

Q: Strategy on going local? How do you turn online search to offline purchase?
A: We have been looking at how we can reach out to various small merchants. 1) Local business Center, where businesses can provide hours, location, delivery region, etc. We also learned that a lot of small businesses don’t have web pages, but have click-to-call, which allows the offline business to facilitate contact with businesses that might not have websites.

Q: What are you doing with podcasting?
A: Doing a lot of work in speech-to-text in research, to enable automated indexing of podcasts.

Q: Personalization…does it mean the end of privacy?
A: The amount of privacy that as user needs can be decided by them. We learned our lesson with the privacy firestorm around Gmail. It’s important to adhere to policy transparency around all our products, to tell people what we know about them. For example, you can click and see your search history. We try to be very transparent about how the matching happens between email text and the ads.

Other points…
“There’s no such thing as a ‘success failure’ on the internet…that is, there’s no case where an offering is so successful that it crashes down. once something has great success, we can find a way to monetize it, through advertising, through subscriptions, through other models.

She also spoke about “Extreme Ironing.”

Wanna Buy A Hat?

…otherwise known as “marketing with both eight barrels.”

Rachel Lyra Hospodar is a ridiculously talented artist across a number of media: paintings, prints, clothing, hats, you name it, she does it.

She creates.

One of the challenges in making a living being truly creative, however, is that if you are creating something that is novel, no-one knows to look for it. If the world has never envisioned “an emotionally informative and yet strangely accurate street and transit map of San Francisco and its environs,” no one will ever Google it. That’s where the “getting the word out” part of the process needs to begin.

So, what’s Rachel doing? How about…

Are you using all the tools at your disposal to get the word out about the cool stuff that you’re doing? You could be. None of the tools and techniques that are being used as part of the Medium Reality global microbrand are expensive, or difficult to do. None of them require any arcane knowledge. They just require a dollop of commitment, week in and week out.

Now, go buy a hat.

Bonus scene:

Nigel Tufnel: [on what he would do if he couldn’t be a rock star] Well, I suppose I could, uh, work in a shop of some kind, or… or do, uh, freelance, uh, selling of some sort of, uh, product. You know…

Marty DiBergi: A salesman?

Nigel Tufnel: A salesman, like maybe in a, uh, haberdasher, or maybe like a, uh, um… a chapeau shop or something. You know, like, “Would you… what size do you wear, sir?” And then you answer me.

Marty DiBergi: Uh… seven and a quarter.

Nigel Tufnel: “I think we have that.” See, something like that I could do.

Marty DiBergi: Yeah… you think you’d be happy doing something like-…

Nigel Tufnel: “No; we’re all out. Do you wear black?” See, that sort of thing I think I could probably… muster up.

Marty DiBergi: Do you think you’d be happy doing that?

Nigel Tufnel: Well, I don’t know – wh-wh-… what’re the hours?

source: IMDB

(disclosure: rachel is not a client, is a friend, and this post is uncompensated and unsolicited. however, i think the smarts and energy that are being put into making “medium reality” a real reality are phenomenal.)