How to earn word of mouth by helping them make friends

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Friends are an essential part of word of mouth marketing. If someone loves your stuff, who are they going to tell about it? More importantly, when you help someone make a friend, you give them something to talk about.

Three ways to do it:

1. Get rid of the boring
2. Give them lots of ways to share
3. Host a gift exchange

1. Get rid of the boring

For people commuting on public transportation, keeping to yourself is an unwritten rule. But that leads to a pretty much silent (and unremarkable) experience on the train or bus. So to help people start conversations, Zeze, a snack company in Brazil, installed make-a-friend priority seating. These bus seats are designated with signs as places to talk to a stranger and make friends. Some have Post-It notes with conversation-starters written on them like, “What’s your favorite food?” Unlike the usual advertisements inside a bus, these signs actually got people talking to one another — making friends and word of mouth stories.

2. Give them lots of ways to share

Somebody is a messaging service that lets you ask a stranger to deliver your text message verbally to friends and family close to their physical location. That way, you can tell someone something out loud even when you can’t be there. But apps like these are more fun when lots of people participate. So Somebody helps users spread the word by asking them to create Somebody Hotspots: public places like colleges or libraries where strangers using the app can find one another. To do it, they give users a download of “Hotspot materials.” It’s a zip drive full of PDFs for flyers, large posters, web graphics, and other files to help you share it in dozens of different ways.

3. Host a gift exchange

At our sister brand, SocialMedia.org, our Member Meetings begin with giving the attendees funky gifts to exchange. Everyone opens a small gift we’ve brought them, and the only rule is they can’t leave with it — they have to trade it. It helps break the ice at our meetings, but it also gives them a great conversation-starter both at the meeting and afterwards. When someone asks about the weird mug, vintage toy, or funny T-shirt they brought home from the conference, they’ll remember all of the friends they made at the Member Meeting.

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