3 Quick Ways to Think About Word-of-Mouth to Inform Your Social Media Strategy

Content is ubiquitous. Aside from brands producing more and more content to grab our attention, people have the ability to curate, co-create and express themselves in a multitude of ways. Publication tools have democratized content creation. As more content is being produced, people are creating and sharing to drive their own conversations.

It is becoming more evident that marketers must begin to view people as a powerful medium. Inherent in this idea, is an understanding of what connects and what causes ideas to be shared (or how conversations flow). The problem now, is how to tap into people’s limited attention?

In this finite space, what are people liable to pay attention to?


We are creating more and more content.

We know trust in advertising is declining.

We know that attention paid to content that is viewed as advertising, is less attended too, or compelling enough to share.

User-generated content is often more trusted than traditional media.

We believe that social content, created by friends, is more informative and helps us to make purchase decisions

Social media spending is on the rise.


And what makes them more likely to share?

To gain people’s attention, marketers must find ways to tap into what people value, what they find useful and what excites them. And in doing so, create compelling content that generates or triggers our desire to share.

Here are three methods with those goals in mind.

1: Spur Debate

We like to express ourselves through our actions and our beliefs. Content does not have to be divisive, but content that taps into cultural associations, or conversations in our social environment, allows people to align themselves with something that is important to them. As Berger and Milkman showed, we are more likely to share content that evokes emotion.

Patagonia creates content that supports a very specific value system. Not only are they built around associations of what the brand stands for, but much of their content allows for self-expression. For example, Patagonia created content around the simple act of not buying. They turned it into a declaration. People can exhibit their beliefs through sharing this content. Patagonia also used their social channels to turn black Friday into a celebration of what you already own. People rallied and created conversation about corporate responsibility (thus spreading WOM).

2: Provide Social Currency

We want to believe we have something to contribute to our followers. This is evident by the millions of posts that provide advice and offer help to those who believe they have an audience (see Youtube). Research has shown that word-of-mouth (or why we share), is often driven by wanting to help others.  Content that allows a person to be an expert, by adding value to their network (or audience) may spur sharing.

3. Put People at the Center of the Story

Social channels allow brands to provide opportunities to seek opinions and ideas from people, as well as, give them a platform to be expressive. Through co-creation or product design, people have the ability to experience a sense of ownership. Brands can also create experiences that allow people to be the center of an on-going narrative.

Recently, Lego invited children to help the brand create a “kronkiwongi”. Children must first describe what a “kronkiwongi” is and then build one out of legos. The goal is for parents to then upload their children presenting their finished creature. The campaign allows children to show off their creative potential and build something with Lego.

Early this year Reebok launched its “Be More Human” campaign. The global campaign hopes to reverse the brands loss of market share. “Be More Human” is a campaign that seeks to align itself with the “tough” fitness trend. People could interact with Reebok’s How Human Machine. Based on a questionnaire, the machine would reveal one’s ‘humanness’. Finally, the #breakyourselfie hashtag allowed people to play a role in the campaign.

This list encourages a better understanding of behaviors, world views and personal narratives- with the understanding of putting people first. A better understanding of all three should help to provide content that  stimulates our need to be expressive. If there is one thing we know, it is that if content isn’t useful in some capacity, it isn’t attended to. It is too easy to swipe away.

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