Upscale Word of Mouth Learning at a Discount

Our friend and WOM guru Andy Sernovitz is hosting a small-group word of mouth marketing seminar in Chicago July 30 and Sept. 4. Usually he only does private training for companies at a very large price, so this is a rare chance for 50 people to get the best introduction to word of mouth that there is.

Use the code “welovemayoclinic” when you register and you’ll get a $250 discount.

This is a very practical, hands-on course. In one intense day, you will:

  • Master the five steps of word of mouth marketing
  • Construct an action plan that your company can start using the very next day
  • Get the same training that big corporations (Microsoft, TiVo, eBay) have received — for a fraction of what they paid
  • Know how to translate word of mouth marketing into real ROI
  • Participate in an active, intense day of practical brainstorming (not boring theory)
  • Learn from Andy Sernovitz, the guy who literally wrote the book on word of mouth marketing

Andy promises you will learn a repeatable, proven marketing framework that is easy to execute, affordable, and provides measurable results within 60 days.

Why Every Business Should Use Facebook

As I previously mentioned, I had an opportunity a couple of weeks ago to distill my thoughts on the business benefits of Facebook for an article Julie Sartain was writing for Computerworld. It was a really useful exercise for me, and an opportunity to encapsulate what I’ve learned in the 10 months or so since I first wrote about Facebook Business Uses.

You can find many of these thoughts expressed, described and demonstrated in more detail in posts linked to SMUG’s Facebook Business page, in its Facebook category or in the formal Facebook curriculum, but I’m posting my full essay here.


From telephones on each salesperson’s desk to fax machines in every work unit to the hundreds of millions of workplace personal computers connected to the Internet, U.S. business leaders have invested incalculable billions of dollars over the last several decades to connect their employees with the outside world and with each other.

They’ve justified these investments because of increased productivity and greater organizational agility. In 1990, for example, being able to receive customer purchase orders by fax instead of via FedEx or local courier was a huge advance, well worth several hundred dollars for the device purchase and the monthly charges for the requisite extra phone line.

And if AT&T had offered its business customers a free fax machine and dedicated phone line, can you imagine anyone declining?

Social networking sites like Facebook are a much more profound communications phenomenon than the fax, and Facebook’s functionality far surpasses the transmission of black-and-white document images. Yet not only are many businesses failing to take advantage of the free communication services Facebook provides: some actively block their employees from accessing it from their workstations.

What’s wrong with this facsimile? Can you even conceive that business owners and managers would not only reject the mythical free fax offering, but would call security to have the AT&T representative escorted from the premises?

Many managers misperceive Facebook, and therefore fail to appreciate its benefits. I’ve listed some practical Facebook business uses below. While every category won’t apply to every business, if you can’t find some way to profitably leverage a free communications network that has more than 70 million active members, your main business problem is likely lack of creative thinking and vision.

Here are five free Facebook business uses you should consider, plus a low-cost bonus:

Directory Listing: You can establish a free “fan” page for your business or organization in Facebook, complete with links to your Web site, photos, videos and contact information to key employees or salespeople. It’s like a supercharged multimedia white pages listing in a telephone directory. Here’s the Mayo Clinic Facebook fan page.

Word-of-Mouth Catalyst: When people become a “fan” of your organization, or when they write on your wall, it shows up on their Facebook profile and in their friends’ news feeds.

Collaboration Networks: Facebook allows you to form an unlimited number of free groups. They can be open to anyone, closed (you must invite or approve new members) or even secret (their existence doesn’t show up on your profile.) The latter two types could enable your employees to collaborate with each other and with external vendors or agencies, without providing them VPN access behind your corporate firewall.

Free Intranet: Speaking of corporate firewalls, if you run a small business, Facebook could be your intranet, through a secret or closed group. You can post important updates from leadership, invite discussion and even use Facebook Chat for instant messaging, without any expense or IT support. Each work team or unit within your company could have its own secret Facebook group for collaboration.

What about data security? Let’s face it: you probably have a hard enough time getting your employees to pay attention to your corporate priorities. Do you really think it’s likely your competitors will A) Find out that you have a secret Facebook group, B) Have the technical sophistication to engage in strategic espionage, and C) Effectively share the information from your secret group with their employees to put you at a significant competitive disadvantage?

Don’t use Facebook to store your bank account or credit card numbers or other information that could have serious legal ramifications if released, but understand this: most of your corporate information just isn’t all that interesting.

Focus Groups: Groups also let you invite current or potential customers or clients to interact with you and share feedback on your products and services. You can bring them together without travel expense or schedule coordination, and your group can be much larger than what can be managed behind the one-way mirror of a focus group.

The Non-Free Bonus: With 85 percent of college students having profiles, Facebook ads could be a great tool for employee recruitment. You can target pay-per-click ads to students at particular schools, with specific college majors and to undergrads or those who already have their degrees, with a link to a Facebook group or your recruiting site. The extra bonus is that by showing openness to social tools like Facebook that are part of how today’s students interact, you’re more likely to be perceived as a desirable place to work.

I’m not advocating diving into Facebook without first thinking exactly what you hope to accomplish, and whether Facebook is the right fit. But given its power (and the new privacy settings, demonstrated in Facebook 210, which enable separation of personal and professional networking), the burden of proof in the discussion should be on those who oppose its use.


What do you think? What other practical uses for Facebook have you found? I’d love to hear your stories. And if you disagree with anything I’ve said, I’d be glad to hear your reasons.

Book Review: The Tipping Point

Yesterday I finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.

I enthusiastically recommend this interesting look at how epidemics reach epidemic proportions, and how it sometimes just takes a little nudge at the right point to immensely change the results. The book is full of real-life case studies that illustrate what Gladwell calls the three rules of epidemics: the Law of the Few, the Stickiness Factor and the Power of Context.

The Tipping Point

The Law of the Few: Certain kinds of people — Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen — play an immensely disproportionate role in spreading a social “virus.” Mavens identify what’s hot or cool, and are the ones who are “in the know.” As Gladwell puts it, they’re not just the kind of people read Consumer Reports; they’re the ones who write to Consumer Reports to correct what they see as errors in product evaluation. Connectors just know more people than the rest of us, often several times more than average, and so when they adopt an idea they will communicate it much more rapidly than others. Salesmen “persuade us when we are unconvinced of what we are hearing, and they are as critical to the tipping of word-of-mouth epidemics as the other two groups.”

The Stickiness Factor: Is the message memorable? Does it engage people? The classic example is the Gold Box in Columbia Record Club’s print advertising, which enabled new members to get any record of their choice free. This simple addition to the membership form in Parade and TV Guide increased sales by four times as much as a simultaneous test that used traditional prime time “awareness” advertising. The Gold Box team won in a rout, even though they spent a quarter of the amount on broadcast ad time as the team using traditional methods.

The Power of Context: The classic example of this is the precipitous decline in crime rates in New York City, which was far more rapid than could be attributed to demographics, crime rates or any other trends that would have pointed to a gradual decline. The key that “tipped” the positive epidemic, and ended the negative one, was zero-tolerance of fare beating or graffiti in the subway system.

The Tipping Point is, in essence, an epidemic that has already tipped; it’s been a #1 national bestseller. I know I’m not an early adopter, but if this post helps to play a Salesman role for you, encouraging you to check it out, I will consider it “mission accomplished.” You also may want to check out and subscribe to his blog.

The book gives a thought-provoking framework for people interested in starting word-of-mouth epidemics or attacking harmful epidemics. It’s interesting, though, that Gladwell doesn’t seem to think the context creation approach used in making subways safe is applicable to drug abuse or teen smoking. For instance, he notes a Baltimore needle exchange program for heroin addicts and apparently doesn’t see that as creating a more permissive/lawless environment similar to the fare-beating or graffiti. Likewise, smoking bans in restaurants and bars create contexts in which smoking is not socially acceptable, and the research on that seems to indicate it significantly reduces smoking. But maybe Gladwell sees drug addictions as just too “sticky” for context to matter as much.

For more on this book, you can check out Gladwell’s overview. I know that because of The Tipping Point, I’m going to be checking out his other book, Blink.