Grapevine – Dave Balter

“Why Buzz was a Fad but Word of Mouth was Forever”

This was an interesting book. Not only was it essentially a case study of case studies, but it got me thinking about a few things. It was written (unbeknown to me when I checked it out) by the Founder of BzzAgent, which is a group I belong to (referred to Bart – a champion Bzzer). I originally joining BzzAgent in order to get free stuff. It’s still the main reason that I like it, but after reading a book-length pamphlet for it, I got jazzed up about it again and updated my profile.

Anyway, the book is about the important of Word of Mouth marketing. It wasn’t a “how to” (since essentially this guy’s stance would be “sign up with BzzAgent”) but it was a “why this is effective.” It made a significant case, although I think at Tutor.com we have been trying to do that all along (giving out free samples, fostering feedback, etc.). But I did put it down and have two “takeaways.” The first being a validation that the idea of creating some sort of “wacky viral campaign” is ridiculous. I always found the whole concept kind of irrelevant and not sure how it boosted sales, and this had some decent info explaining why I am right (validation! Yea!). I think that the only people who think that these “Web 3.0” ideas are going to work fall into two categories – executives who read a book about it or heard about it second or third-hand and people my own age/generation who have no real experience in marketing, but think they are on the cutting edge because they are early adopters of other technology. It’s this really weird gap. I don’t know if I am explaining correctly, but I can see the archetypes (and real life counterparts) in my head.

The other thing that it left me thinking about was WHY we tell people about products and services we love. Sure, we are social animals and there are all sorts of implications and theories about why we look out for one another, etc. – but there has to be a little more to it. Do we want validation for our own choices? To have an association with a brand because we think that the brand’s appeal will reflect well on us? Do we want to be seen as an authority or cool or cutting edge? Do we want to promote the company so that it does well and stays in business for us to be able to utilize in the future? Would we not publicize it so that it doesn’t get big, and therefore ruined?

I think people speak (and don’t speak) about these things for a variety of reasons – it probably changes based on what the product is, who you are speaking to and a million other things. But it’s something I never really thought about.

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