Live coverage: How to master Google+ and word of mouth marketing, featuring Guy Kawasaki and Andy Sernovitz

This is live coverage from today’s teleconference, “Master Class: Google+ and Word of Mouth Marketing” featuring Guy Kawasaki and Andy Sernovitz, hosted by SmartBrief.

SmartBrief’s Jesse Stanchak introduces Guy Kawasaki:

  • Guy thanks SmartBrief for hosting the teleconference, Andy for being a joint-panelist, and the audience for dialing in.

Guy introduces Google+:

  • Guy talks about how powerful and amazing Google+ is — especially in comparison to other platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.
  • Guy says the experts are talking about Google+ like they did with the original Macs.
  • Guy talks about how the aesthetics of Google+ are much better than other platforms – and that the recent updates make it even stronger.
  • Guy: Facebook is for people – sharing updates, news, etc.; Twitter is for perceptions – sharing what it’s like to experience something right now (like being in an earthquake in Chile); LinkedIn is for making connections and getting jobs, and “pimping”; and Google+ is for passions.
  • Guy: Google+ is about passions – whether it’s about social media, photography, and hockey.
  • Guy talks about the advantages of circles and how you can organize audiences by interests. Guy talks about he uses it to separate circles into his passions: social media, hockey, and photography.
  • Guy: Many people have heard the perception that Google+ is a ghost town, but it’s not. It’s true there are much less members than Facebook, but it’s not a fair comparison.
  • Guy: The purpose of Google+ is to share passions with people you don’t know, not to share stuff with people you already know. So you have to show up with an open mind and be willing to meet new people.
  • Guy: It’s like going from a big party where you knew everyone to a small party where you don’t know anyone. But the people at this new party are still great and interesting, you just need to be open and meet them.

Engaging on Google+:

  • Guy describes the keys to commenting on Google+:
    • Guy talks about the “+1” as being like a tip.
    • Guy talks about “Plus Mentioning” – a process for commenting and tagging another Google+ user.
  • Guy says re-sharing is the most sincere form of flattery on Google+.
  • Guy recommends the NPR as a model of an organization that shares great content all year long – which earns them the right to every once in a while hosting a telethon. Always provide great content (and not promote yourself) – and sporadically (no more than 5% of the time), sell something.
  • Guy talks about StumbleUpon, SmartBrief, Alltop, and the people you circle on Google+ as being great resources to find lots of specific types of content you can re-share and on Google+.
  • Guy says every post should have a picture because it’s such a visual world – and a great picture can suck people in.
  • Guy recommends keeping posts brief – because anything beyond 3 paragraphs starts feeling like an article. You can get away with it sometimes, but generally speaking, Guy keeps his posts to about a sentence.
  • Guy: When you post something on Google+ or Facebook, it’ll automatically pull in a photo, but most photos aren’t cropped properly or don’t fit the headline – so Guy takes the effort to find his own photos that pull better.

Creating your own content on Google+:

  • Guy: Your wall is your swimming pool – so if you people pooping or peeing in your pool, throw them out! Not only is it your pool, it’s the pool you’re sharing with your guests.
  • Guy says to avoid any fights, extended back-and-forths, and bickering. Guy says to use the amateur boxing rule: Go for 3 rounds, and that’s it. Yes, there’s a big temptation to go on for rounds 5 or 6, but it’s usually not worth it – because everyone else reading the comments could give a shiitake about the conversation.
  • Guy: There are two kinds of people in social media: Those who want more people, and those that are lying. You want more followers, so follow the rules of finding interesting things, not promoting more than 5% of the time, always using a picture, and always responding to comments (with +1 mentions).

Dealing with bozos on Google+:

  • Guy recommends the “Nuke Comments on Google+” plugin for Google+, which can be used to completely block people on Google+. He also recommends “Replies and More for Google+”, which makes it much easier to do the +mention feature.

Avoiding cluelessness on Google+:

  • Guy’s tips: Never tell people on what or how to share content on Google+ (though he admits he’s been doing that for the last 30 minutes). Never announce that you’re no longer following or reading someone else. And never ask someone why they stopped circling or following you – just like you shouldn’t ask people to circle you. Also, rarely sell (like NPR, they don’t have a telethon every day). Finally, don’t tell people you’re a guru or an expert – people will decide this, not you.

Hangouts: The killer feature

  • Hangouts are 10-person video chats – which can be watched by lots of other people. Guy says it’s Skype on sterioids, and it’s very useful for conducting impromptu webinars. There’s nothing else in social media like it.

The effects of Google+ on search

  • Guy says Google has begun incorporating Google+ content into Google Search. Now, when you search for something like “SXSW,” you see not only the standard results – but also content that people you’ve circled has posted about it. This makes search much more social and much more relevant.
  • Guy: One of the beauties of this is that it’s a great incentive to get on Google+. For example, if you wanted to be seen as an expert on venture capital to to your friends, you’d post about that on Google+ and they’d see it when they searched for information on it (assuming they’ve circled you). This is the first time in the history of the internet that search has made sense.

Guy turns the call over to Andy Sernovitz

  • Andy: I wanted to thank Guy for joining us, SmartBrief for hosting us, and everyone for joining.
  • Andy: Guy talked about Google+, which is the newest way to share, and I’m here to talk about word of mouth, which is the oldest way to share.
  • Andy: It’s not “social MEDIA,” it’s “SOCIAL media.”

Andy talks about the two big ideas of word of mouth marketing:

  • Andy: 1) It’s giving people a reason to talk about your stuff.
  • Andy: 2) It’s making it easier for the conversation to take place.

Classic examples of people putting the two big ideas of word of mouth marketing to work:

  • Andy: Remember the first time you had Krispy Kreme? They created a giant company, had an IPO – and all for one great reason to talk. It was their “Hot Now” sign in the window, which everyone talked about. Now, unfortunately, they killed this reason to talk by shrink-wrapping and putting their donuts in a gas station – and nobody talks about food you can buy cold and in a gas station.
  • Andy: Now the second part of this definition is making it easier for the conversation to take place – and that’s where this social media stuff comes into play. But that’s just one small part: the online part.
  • Andy talks about the “employee only” secret code that companies email you. If you think about it, if Gap wants to have a sale, they’ve got to spend a million dollars getting signs in stores. Or, they can have one guy type up a 15-minute email with the subject line “Secret! Friends and family only!” – and in just a few minutes, everyone knows about.

Your brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what other people say it is.

  • Andy: All your marketing sends people to Google – and what they’re going to see is your reviews, blog posts about you, and what people are saying. Your advertising might be what people see first, but the word of mouth is the last thing they see before they buy.
  • Andy: Negative word of mouth travels faster than positive word of mouth. When we’re mad at a company, we’re so quick to run out and write a review. But when we’re happy, there’s no immediate urge to run out and talk about it. You don’t jump up and say, “My dishwasher still works after three years!” As marketers, our job is to go out and remind our happy customers to talk.

Why are people going to tell their friends about you?

  • Andy: There are three big motivations that drive people to leave a review:
    • 1) It’s about YOU – the company.
    • 2) It’s about ME – the talker.
    • 3) It’s about US – the community.
  • Andy: The YOU motivation is that you make great stuff that I want to tell people about. I’m going to assume that you already know this and are working on it every day.
  • Andy: But what you do need to work on is what Seth Godin calls “The Purple Cow.” It’s the idea that you drive through the country and you see a cow, it’s no big deal. But if you were to see a purple cow, you’d talk about it! This is remarkable – being worth remarking about.
  • Andy: The longer your customer has been with you, the harder it is to get them talking. This is the chocolate problem: There’s no reason to call a friend and tell them that chocolate is great – because duh, it’s always been great and we all know.
  • Andy: Solve the chocolate problem by finding a new reason to be worth talking about. Think Google: They went from Google Maps (which we all were thrilled about), to Satellite View (which we all immediately used to look at the top of our house), and followed with Street View. When you think about it – there isn’t a real business use for Satellite View, but it’s a fantastic reason to talk. And this is what you need: A new reason to talk.
  • Andy: The second motivation is the ME reason. It’s about making people feel good. Some people do this because they just like to help – like the stranger in the bookstore who just likes to recommend great stuff. A great example of this is QuickBooks. If you go to their website, they have a community that’s sortable by types of people (plumbers, teachers, etc.) – and it helps these talkers feel good and smart.
  • Andy: Ego is another big driver. People want to be beta testers, they want status, they want to feel important. Give these people exclusivity, public and private recognition that they’re special, and thanks and credit so others can recognize their status.
  • Andy talks about examples of simple, fun ideas that get people talking. He gives the example of White Castle, which every year turns itself into the Love Castle and takes reservations during Valentine’s Day.

The “US” reason we talk

  • Andy: Ask a kid if they’d like to wear an ad for “the man,” and they’ll say hell no. But they’re happy to wear Abercrombie and Nike logos all day.
  • Andy: It’s about creating a sense of community for people. He talks about Microsoft’s three or four live events a day – all designed to give people training and certification that they can go back and talk about.
  • Andy shares the example of Maker’s Mark and what a powerful sense of community members get. You take a pledge to promise to help your friends stop drinking bad whiskey, you get private emails from the founder, recipes, and info about other members. You also get a membership card that you can pull out and show off when you’re at the bar – and this card also has your barrel number (your name is stamped on a barrel, which you can buy a bottle of when it’s ready). And they also send presents during the holiday season. And it all adds up to a great reason to talk.

How do you put together a word of mouth campaign?

  • Andy recommends going to to download helpful worksheets and tutorials to create your campaign.
  • Andy: Every word of mouth campaign has five steps, we call them the Five Ts. It works for BtoB, BtoC, etc – all campaigns use them.
    • Talkers: Find people who will talk about you.
    • Topics: Give people something to say.
    • Tools: How do you help that talker share the topic with more people?
    • Taking Part: This is the participation part of the conversation.
    • Tracking: Once the word of mouth starts, how do you know it’s happening? How do you track it?
  • Andy dives into talkers. Andy: Your talkers aren’t necessarily your customers. Just because someone likes to spend money doesn’t mean they like to spread word of mouth. Your talkers are the people who surround your customers.
  • Andy shares the example of the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas. When they opened, they let cab drivers stay the first night, for free. So who do cab drivers in Vegas recommend when tourists ask them for a hotel recommendation?
  • Andy: Think about Ferrari. Their talkers aren’t their customers, they’re the teenagers with posters on their walls.
  • Andy: Think about your favorite restaurant. You might go there every week, but you probably don’t go out of your way to talk about it. But if you go to a new restaurant, you tell everyone. So, a restaurants best talkers aren’t their loyal customers, they’re the new ones.
  • Andy: A topic is not a marketing message. It’s not a headline in a brochure or a press release. In fact, if your topic would work in one, then it’s not a great topic. Instead, think about, “Hey, did you know they do this?” Think like the Carnegie Deli in New York – they have the best corned beef in the world, but what everyone talks about is how they’re 7-inches tall.

The most important question

  • Andy says the number-one question you need to always ask about anything you do: Would anybody tell a friend? If not, you need to go back


Q: Guy, can you recommend a place to get great images to use in posts?

A: Often the source will have a great image, but it just won’t be the default option when you go to share it. If not, Wikimedia is a great place to find free images to share. Guy says Flickr is great too, but you just need to make sure the images you want to share are free to use.

Q: Andy, how do you turn a critic into a fan?

A: That’s a good question. You first need to assess if the criticism is worth a response. If so, you need to respond quickly, respond like a real human being (Hi, this is Jenny, I’m really sorry you have a bad experience. What can I do for ya?), and lastly, try to solve the problem.

Q: Guy, how do you introduce yourself on Google+? What’s the digital handshake?

A: Usually the first introduction happens when you comment on the first post. What you should do is just cut to the chase and give reaction to the post (don’t say, “Hi, I’m Andy. I like long walks on the beach and white wine). Basically, you want to provide some kind of value – whether it’s positive feedback, links to additional resources, an analysis, or assistance. If you have something negative to say, you should probably just shut up – why make everyone that you’re a clueless person?

Q: Guy, have you seen an uptick in Google+’s activity?

A: The problem with me giving an opinion on this, is that I’m a Google+ suggested person to follow. So I’ve got more than a million people following me – and that makes me such an unusual case. I’m not bragging, the only reason is because Google selected me. I will say that, using the party analogy, if you went to a small but target-rich party, met one or two interesting people, and have subsequently continued to interaction with people – hallelujah! This is more eHarmony than HotorNot.

Q: Andy, what do you make of Yelp?

A: I think Yelp is a fact of life now. If you’re a small business, you’re going to get reviewed. It’s there, it’s never going to go away. So, you need to work with this force of nature – because it’s very easy to make it work for you. If you’re upsetting your customers, you need to figure out how to fix that. But bigger: You need to figure out how you can go to Yelp and get 20 people who leave your store every day to talk about you. You don’t need a thousand positive reviews on Yelp, you need a hundred – and you’re a superstar.

Q: Guy, what about you? Any connections with Google and Yelp?

A: I suppose it’s there, but I can’t think of instances where it’s direct and obvious. I kind of look at Google+, Twitter, and Facebook as one giant universe like Yelp – but just disorganized.


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  1. Allison DeFord

    Guy and Andy are honest, refreshing and laugh out loud funny. (I have issues with LOL; maybe I’m just old) I can’t wait to meet Andy next month at the WOMM in Austin. You and my creative partner, Lori, will have lots to talk about. I foresee a Vulcan Mind Meld.

    I’m still not completely convinced that Google+ is so fantastic, but it’s growing on me. Most people in the GOP weren’t fans of Romney and now, suddenly, they’re backing him. I’m never a backer for the sake of backing, so I’m giving this some more time. Hopefully, Google+ won’t end up on the “Daily Show” with a header like “Mitt Happens”.

    Thanks for sharing this! It was worth the read.

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