In our previous post, Supporting Online Evangelists, we continued our series with a discussion on how to support your brand evangelists to help spread the word. In this post, we take a look at buzz; what is it and how to create it.
Buzz can help attract evangelists and other community members. Buzz is excitement; it’s a feeling that people want to share. Buzz is required to make anything online go viral. Buzz is spread by word of mouth (WOM), and word of mouth is a phenomenon as old as communities. Social media removes the friction from buzz/word of mouth and, like a lot of other kinds of communications, greatly accelerates it.
Although we prefer the term buzz, much of the social media industry uses the term word of mouth as if word of mouth was always positive. Many things can be spread rapidly by word of mouth online, including misinformation and negative information. Buzz, on the other hand, is almost always positive.
Professors Del Hawkins of the University of Oregon and David Mothersbaugh from the University of Alabama define buzz as “the exponential expansion of word-of-mouth” communication. You need more than a cute idea to create exponential expansion. You need to connect with the current zeitgeist or with a common need. And you have to make it easy for people to tell one another about you.
What Creates Buzz?
It’s one thing to understand what buzz is, but understanding the phenomenon doesn’t really answer the question “What creates buzz?” Here are three answers to this question from respected sources:
- A good experience, says Forrester Research
According to a survey of 4,500 consumers, when asked about companies in 12 industries, more respondents reported talking about good experiences than bad experiences in eight of the industries. Forrester found that consumers reported positive word of mouth about retailers and banks while TV service providers have the most consumers saying bad things. Although there is a trend toward sharing positive feelings, consumers tell more people about a bad experience. GenX’ers and Older Boomers most frequently shared news about a negative experience. Word of mouth cuts both ways.
- An offline relationship with peers, says BIGResearch
According to a survey done for the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association, 20.6 percent of social media users say they regularly seek advice from others when purchasing products or services. More than one-third (34.7 percent) give advice about purchases, compared to 28.4 percent of all adults. Offline relationships remain more important, however, with 71.8 percent of social media users spreading the word about a product or service in face-to-face conversations, while more than one-third (34.7 percent) do so over a mobile phone conversation.
- A purple cow, says Seth Godin
In his book, Purple Cow, Godin defines the remarkable bovine as, “Products, services and techniques so useful, interesting, outrageous, and note-worthy that the market will want to listen to what you have to say. No, in fact, you must develop products, services, and techniques that the market will actually seek out.” The idea is to stand out from the other, boring cows. But to do so you need more than a regulation cow and some purple paint, or even a brilliant idea. You need to execute. In a Fast Company magazine article, Godin flips an old superlative — the greatest thing since sliced bread — on its head:
Otto Rohwedder thought he had invented the greatest thing because he invented sliced bread. He thought that if he got a patent on sliced bread, he’d be rich. What Otto forgot was to ask a very important two-word question: Who cares? No one knew about sliced bread. No one cared. It wasn’t until Wonder Bread came around and marketed it that sliced bread took off. It wasn’t the bread that won, it was the packaging and distribution.
Ideas that spread, win. What we’ve been living through is the greatest culture of spreading ideas that there’s ever been. At one level, that’s great because it’s easier to spread your ideas than ever before. At another, it’s harder because we keep raising the bar.
How to Create Buzz is the 76th in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Operating Manual for Enterprises (itself part of a series for different audiences). We’re just past page 230. At this rate it’ll be a long time before we get through all 430 pages, but luckily, if you’re impatient, the book is available in paper form at bit.ly/OrderBeAPerson and you can save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV
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What Others Are Saying
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—Lori Ruff, The LinkedIn Diva, Speaker/Author and CEO of Integrated Alliances
Next up: Create Buzz – Listen First
 Zeitgeist is the spirit of the times or the spirit of the age. It’s what people are talking about now.