Recently I stumbled on a Fast Company article written by Paul Jarvis entitled, More Doing, Less Promoting. Jarvis complained of, “drowning in self-promotion on social media.” It’s something we all feel from time to time. And while I’m not ready to completely ditch promoting myself, I sure wish everyone else would knock it off.
What? Don’t tell me you don’t feel the same way sometimes.
We’re living in a promotion-saturated time. Corporations buy naming rights to buildings. Transparent hashtags float in the corner of every program on network television. We can’t escape. And most of us have become cynical. Often we tune out.
The shift in focus toward Word of Mouth Marketing is an understandable result. It makes perfect sense. Don’t you trust a friend’s review over a slick marketing campaign, anyway? As sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Goodreads continue to grow, they influence public opinion as well as consumer activity.
And that brings me back to Jarvis and his compelling point. If we focus on doing good work, people will talk about it. The more people talk, the less we have to promote ourselves. In the end, that word of mouth marketing is much more valuable than our self-promotion, so it’s a win-win. It all sounds so simple, right? Except for one teeny, tiny detail. How do we get people talking?
Here’s where I slightly disagree with Jarvis. A great product or compelling content is important, but it isn’t enough. Consumers are savvy and the assortment of available product is wide. So if we want people talking, we have to give them something special to talk about. More importantly, we have to give them a reason to talk. The Doughnut Vault (401 1/2 N. Franklin Street) in Chicago has done just that.
There are a lot of specialty doughnut shops in Chicago. What’s even better? There are a lot of specialty doughnut shops in Chicago that make really amazing doughnuts. But there is one doughnut shop that has a line around the block nearly every day of the week. Sure, their doughnuts are tasty, but what makes people willing to wait in line for Doughnut Vault doughnuts?
I have a hypothesis. They’ve created what Jonah Berger refers to as “social currency” in his book Contagious.
The doughnut vault is open every Tuesday through Friday from “8:00 a.m. until we run out.” Saturday hours are similar. They’re open from “9:30 a.m. until we run out.” That simple little phrase, “until we run out,” is incredibly powerful. I’ve waited in line. In fact, I’ve waited in line several times, so I can promise you it’s powerful. As customers excitedly wait, sometimes for 30 or 45 minutes, anticipation builds. With every person that leaves you watch as the inventory gets one doughnut (or 12!) closer to zero. Will you make it to the front of the line in time? Will you get a doughnut before they “run out?”
Surviving the Doughnut Vault line and bringing home the prize generates social currency. As you enjoy the incredibly tasty spoils of victory, you’ve done more than just buy breakfast. The doughnuts you waited for, the doughnuts you barely got in time, are worth talking about. The experience is something you want to tell your friends. The experience is one they will want to have for themselves.
A great product or content is important. As a matter of fact, it is expected. But if you want to cut back your self-promotion and get people talking, you’re going to need more. Social currency is a powerful part of generating buzz. How can you utilize it to get your customers talking?