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Be an advocate for your customers

This is a post from our WordofMouth.org project. Check it out for more great word of mouth marketing tips like this every day.

Fantastic customer service is a huge opportunity for word of mouth marketing. Show them you care, and they’ll appreciate you and talk about you. But what if you took that kind of service one step further by becoming an advocate for your customers?

Phone system provider Grasshopper does just that with their “Tell Us Your Story” form. They ask their clients for information like how many employees they have, what makes their business unique, and which blogs they’d love to appear in. Then they turn that information into a reason to put the spotlight on them.

WOM Tip #198: Grasshopper form

Grasshopper uses these stories to feature their clients on their Happy Customers page or to get them press coverage. In fact, they even managed to get one of them quoted in The New York Times. That’s a great way to not only do something awesome for your customers, but also to build stronger relationships by learning more about them.

Make your word of mouth story about your customers and they’ll be more than happy to tell everyone about you, too.

Newsletter: #1022: The “Great Stuff in the Mail” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.]

Mail puts something physical in people’s hands — something most marketing can’t do. It’s also one of the oldest forms of marketing, and while part of that means people are trained to ignore it, it also means there are huge opportunities to do it in a way that’s never been done before.

Here are three remarkable things companies are sending in the mail:

1. Scissors
2. Ridiculous gifts
3. Tootsie Rolls
4. Check it out: Plink

1. Scissors

Everyone knows the pain of getting a package that’s too difficult to open. And unfortunately, the frustration of prying open these packages can sometimes outweigh the delight of getting them. GiftTree knows that. So they send a complimentary pair of scissors with every package and a note to explain that “part of providing the finest in luxury is knowing that the gifts are easy to open and enjoy.”

The lesson: These complimentary scissors are a big, visual reminder that customer service details matter to GiftTree. Plus, they’re just not the kind of thing you throw away. Now, every time someone sees these branded scissors, that customer will have a great story about GiftTree.

2. Ridiculous gifts

Without advertising, Cards Against Humanity went from a creative-commons-licensed game made by a few friends to one of the most popular games sold on Amazon. They’re great word of mouth marketers, and one of their greatest tactics involves mailing stuff to people. For example, this year, they let people sign up for “Ten Days of Kwanzaa or Whatever.” Each day, they mailed people stuff like a playing card with their name on it, Cards Against Humanity-themed stickers, and even the title to a square foot of land on “Hawaii 2.”

The lesson: When people buy a card game, they usually only buy it once (with the exception of expansion packs, which CAH has a bunch of). That means, after the newness of the game wears off, people stop talking about it. Cards Against Humanity not only got back on their customers’ minds for this campaign, but also mailed them a huge pile of word of mouth tools.

3. Tootsie Rolls

This isn’t the first time we’ve written about Headsets.com. They sell boring stuff like headsets and phone accessories, but they’re known for adding Tootsie Rolls to every order they ship. It’s a great word of mouth tactic, and this time, they did something even more special. Our Operations Specialist, Michelle, thanked their operator for the Tootsie Rolls we received in an order and mentioned the orange-flavored ones were her favorite. You can guess what color Tootsie Rolls Michelle got in the mail next time.

The lesson: Little moments to surprise and delight your customers like this come up all the time. Headsets.com treats them like a well-oiled machine, carefully gathering the information and doing something about it every time.

4. Check it out: Plink

This site lets you create music with strangers in real time. Just pick a color to choose your instrument and click your mouse to play it. Then you can drag it up and down to change the note. It’s surprisingly addictive.

Check it out: Plink

Leslie Drate on how NVIDIA builds passionate social communities with great content

This is a post from my company, SocialMedia.org’s blog. Check it out for more profiles and stories about the people running social at really big brands.

We’re proud to call Leslie Drate a member of SocialMedia.org since 2011 as a Team Lead of Global Digital and Social Media at Cisco Systems, and now as a Social Media Strategist at NVIDIA. For this story, she sat down with us to talk about NVIDIA’s content strategy and amazing social media fans.

Here are a few numbers from Facebook you don’t hear often: 979 likes on a comment for a post with over 6,800 likes and 535 shares. This isn’t a viral video or a click-baited listicle — it’s a photo of a custom-built PC by one of NVIDIA’s 1.4 million Facebook fans. The best part: That engagement is organic.

NVIDIA’s Social Media Strategist, Leslie Drate, says this is normal for their highly engaged fan base of gamers and enthusiasts on Facebook. But in a time when Facebook’s drop in organic reach is making headlines, she realizes this is a big deal.

“It’s mind blowing. Our fans mean everything to our business.”

“They’re fantastic advocates. We feel very fortunate to have hundreds, if not thousands, of those advocates out there. We can receive several thousand likes on a post organically and get a couple thousand comments just by asking for their opinion. They love to give their input, and they like to talk with each other,” says Leslie.

Each week NVIDIA features photos of gaming room setups or custom-built PCs submitted by their fans on Facebook. Leslie’s team picks a winner, puts NVIDIA’s logo in the corner of the photo, and shares it on their wall. She recalls how one self-proclaimed fan boy said the highlight of his love for NVIDIA came when his photo was chosen to be featured.

“He said he couldn’t stop smiling for three hours straight when he saw our logo added to the bottom of his photo,” Leslie says.

Once NVIDIA posts user-generated content, it spurs big conversations.

These photo features often erupt into great conversations between NVIDIA’s gaming fans. They’ll share building tips, post photos of their own custom builds, and ask some pretty technical questions.

“It’s interesting because the fans will moderate the conversations on their own. People will ask questions about how they built it, and they’ll share the specs and their experiences building it. Our fans are phenomenal at responding to each other’s questions,” Leslie explains.

While their Facebook fans are usually gamers, they also have a big audience in the business world.

NVIDIA’s visual computing technology is a part of anything from medical diagnoses to scientific research, product design, and, of course, video games.

Leslie explains, “We get everything in between the business side and the gaming side. Folks who build brand loyalty in the gaming world will sometimes move into the business world and seek out our products for the visual benefits in industries like media and entertainment. There’s a real spectrum.”

To help speak to their wide range of audiences, NVIDIA plans content for different demographics on different platforms.

While a large portion of their Facebook and Google+ audiences are made up of NVIDIA’s 18-24 year-old male gamer demographic, their LinkedIn and Twitter accounts are populated mainly by business audiences. For example, on LinkedIn, they might share an article on their CFO making a Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Tech list.

Leslie says this strategy is based on insights from platform metrics, but also from social listening.

Social video is another important piece of that content strategy.

As a visual computing tech company and inventor of the graphics processing unit, a lot of NVIDIA’s stories are visual. With global YouTube channels and a brand presence on Vine, they often tell those stories with video.

Leslie says, “People are consuming video as a form of communication in an exponentially greater magnitude than they have in the past. We used to read all of our content. Now we’re watching videos all day long without even realizing it. I think it’s really important to participate in the form of communication people want to consume your content in.

NVIDIA has a flexible content calendar to keep things relevant to their audience.

“We have no shortage of content here. So we handpick what we think fans will be most interested in and key announcements. We never push anything that wouldn’t be relevant to them,” Leslie explains.

But as for a content calendar, they like to keep things open and in real time.

I don’t understand how anybody can have a rigid schedule and still be newsworthy. Things happen every day. We have to keep our content lively by reacting to that. We roll with the punches and it keep things interesting.”

That kind of fan-centric social strategy seems to be working.

“Our fans seem to have an endless passion for participating.”

In her role, Leslie gets to hear lots of great stories from NVIDIA’s passionate enthusiasts. For example, one fan talked about connecting with his father by building a gaming rig together after his mother died. She says that passion for NVIDIA is based on a consistent, high-quality experience with their products.

She admits, “For me, it’s such a great community experience enabling the fans to share with one another.”

Follow Leslie Drate on Twitter and ask about her adorable Collie. Meanwhile, check out the NVIDIA fan activity for yourself on their Facebook page.

3 one-sentence word of mouth wonders

This is a post from our WordofMouth.org project. Check it out for more great word of mouth marketing tips like this every day.

Short is sweet when it comes to word of mouth topics. Why? Because word of mouth is lazy. To get people to talk about your stuff, don’t ask them to remember long messages and don’t make them explain something complicated. Instead, give them something portable — something they can say in one sentence.

Here are some simple word of mouth topics to inspire you:

1. “They put everything on a donut.”
2. “They hand it to you upside down.”
3. “Their employees are amazing.”

1. “They put everything on a donut.”

Gourdough’s in Austin is famous for one thing: They put everything on a donut — yes, even the salad. It’s a simple enough story to remember and to tell your friends. But it works because it’s unusual enough to stand out, even in a city full of foodies like Austin. Companies like Gourdough’s, with word of mouth built into their business model, can share their message much easier (and in fewer words) than those that rely on one-off word of mouth campaigns.

2. “They hand it to you upside down.”

Can your product do something cool? Prove it. Sometimes that’s all it takes to get people to talk about your stuff. Dairy Queen shows off how thick their ice cream shakes are by handing them over upside down. Decades ago they made this one simple change in how their employees interact with their customers, and it still starts conversations today. What small changes can you make to truly show off your stuff?

3. “Their employees are amazing.”

Your word of mouth topic doesn’t always have to be about something quirky or unusual. Sometimes it’s just about being the best at what matters to your customers. For example, people don’t talk about USAA’s bank locations or their deals on insurance. They talk about their above-and-beyond customer service — a simple word of mouth message that starts conversations every day. Are you hiring and supporting the kinds of employees your customers would tell their friends about?

Newsletter: #1021: The “Lessons from a Podcast” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.]

Some experts think podcasts are experiencing a kind of renaissance. And it seems even more true now that so many people are downloading and binge-listening to Serial, a story about a mysterious murder case told in weekly episodes over the course of a season.

Besides being a spinoff of the even more popular podcast, This American Life, Serial has a lot of things going for it that has made it a big success. Here are three lessons to learn from it:

1. It has to be good
2. Build the list before you need it
3. It’s OK to ask
4. Check it out: Mail Kimp Remix

1. It has to be good

People love Serial, not because a marketer dreamed it up and thought of a great content strategy, but because a maker created something fantastic — something so good, people want to talk about it. With the best products, the content and quality come first, and all the marketing comes after.

The lesson: It seems obvious, but sometimes marketers get caught up in how to convince people they want their stuff instead of how to create something people want.

2. Build the list before you need it

A lot of Serial’s success comes from the popularity of its backer, This American Life. They already had an amazing fan base interested in the same type of storytelling. But it didn’t happen overnight. It took years of building an audience of raving fans for This American Life’s incredible work to make Serial such an “overnight” smash hit.

The lesson: Earning the love of your audience takes a long-term commitment to delivering great stuff. But once you have a loyal audience, it’s much easier to expand and introduce them to new stuff.

3. It’s OK to ask

“Do you want a season two of Serial? If so, I’m going to ask you for money. Maybe you saw this coming — but I’m only going to ask you to do this once.” That’s how Sarah Koenig begins episode nine of the first season of Serial. She explains that they’ve been living off of the generosity of This American Life, but to be sustainable, they have to make their own money. It was a vulnerable, honest moment for the show. But instead of pumping it up with a telethon or making big promises for the next season’s story, they simply asked in the most straightforward way possible. And their listeners came through.

The lesson: This only works when it’s authentic. When you level with your customers, you’re bringing them on your side, giving them a reason to feel connected to, and even responsible for, your success.

4. Check it out: Mail Kimp Remix

Someone sampled MailChimp’s sponsored message and Serial’s theme music to create a surprisingly catchy beat.

Check it out: Mail Kimp Remix

Ike Pigott, Communications Strategist for Alabama Power at Southern Company

This is a post from my company, SocialMedia.org’s blog. Check it out for more profiles and stories about the people running social at really big brands. This member profile comes from Ike Pigott, Communications Strategist for Alabama Power Company, a division of Southern Company. We’re thrilled to have had him as a member of SocialMedia.org […]

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3 word of mouth marketing tips for startups

This is a post from our WordofMouth.org project. Check it out for more great word of mouth marketing tips like this every day. Launching a business? We know that means you have a tight budget and an even tighter schedule. So we’ll get right to it: 1. Make great partnerships 2. Don’t overlook the right […]

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Laura Kolodjeski on how Sanofi US created a patient-centered blog in a highly regulated industry

This is a post from my company, SocialMedia.org’s blog. Check it out for more profiles and stories about the people running social at really big brands. This post features a case study by Director of Patient Insights, Laura Kolodjeski at our Member Meeting in Boston where she shared insights from Sanofi US’ content hub created […]

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