For all the wonders of digital marketing and social media, it’s a little easy for us marketers to forget the astounding power of personal relationships in advocacy for a brand. Several years back I read a great little book called Contagious (2013) by Jonah Berger about why things go viral, or why people share ideas in general. Berger posited that it’s a blend of social currency, triggers, emotions and narrative (among other factors) that drive people to contribute and share resources in everyday conversation. Briefly, here are those components:

  • Social currency means having something valuable enough to spend (share) in a social context and receive a positive feeling for that contribution.
  • Triggers refer to cultural or social rhythms that offer the reminder to share that social currency. Singing Friday by Rebecca Black every Friday, just because it’s Friday.
  • Emotions, in this context, refer to the happiness, sadness, frustration, anger or humor attached to an idea. Emotions are tied to memory.
  • And Narrative simply means a story-based structure (beginning, middle and end) that provides the delivery vehicle for an idea

I find that more than digital relationships, it’s face-to-face interactions that present these four elements in the right human tincture that make for good memory.

Still True

Recently, we decided to take a little of our own advice and conduct an anonymous brand perception survey among our clients to find out how they felt about us and our industry. The results were both illuminating and encouraging, but one particular finding stood out from the rest.

We asked where our clients get information to make decisions about working with a business like ours – their defining and influential sources. Here’s what we heard:

  1. Word of Mouth (75%+ respondents)
  2. Google
  3. Our Website
  4. Everything else

After spending some time looking through the individual results, I suppose it’s not a huge revelation, but I was still pleasantly surprised. Going in, I thought that as a PR and marketing outfit maybe all the earned and social media we go after would have a greater impact.

With Word of Mouth leading so clearly, it changed the trajectory of how we’re planning our own new business strategy for 2019 toward a much stronger mix of networking opportunities, referral requests and many, many coffees (I’ll drink at least a swimming pool’s worth of coffee this year).

That’s not to say we’ll ditch the rest of the marketing mix, but it’s more likely that our social, earned and owned media will point toward opportunities to create face-to-face connections more than they will our services and capabilities.

About the Author

Vince Boileau

Vince is a strategic thinker, communicator and leader. He is passionate about helping others to tell complex stories with nuance and authenticity. Vince is dedicated to growing a company that creates meaningful change for our clients, team and the communities where we work. He earned his bachelor's in communications from Grand Valley State University in 2008, served for three years as editor and assistant director at a media production company and joined Boileau Communications in 2012. In his free time, Vince enjoys playing and recording music, socializing over nerdy board games, watching good sci-fi, and doubling as a jungle gym for his three kids.

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