Have you read the novel “Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini? It was a very enjoyable book that sold millions of copies and found just as many fans of the author, who was little known before this book. The fascinating thing about a paperback novel, just like so many other products we purchase, is they have a limited life span of usefulness. Once you’ve read the book and enjoyed it, you may spend a day or two discussing it or recommend it to others and in a short while, that stops. You move on …
From the authors and publishers point of view, they would prefer to have people talking about their work as long as possible. The press coverage and hype that comes with launching a book is just a launch pad — but for a book to succeed, it needs readers to promote the book through word of mouth by sharing their experience … and relies on this to keep the ball rolling. The reader has a limited time frame between the time he or she has read the book till the time the effect of the book wears off to share their experience and promote the book. For those selling the product (which, in this case is a book) — that is very precious time.
Social networks and community websites are fantastic tools in tapping into the effect of a good product on a satisfied customer. People who enjoyed “The Kite Runner” are probably going to go online to read up more on the author and explore other works. If they go to the authors website, Khaledhosseini.com, first, they have access to more content like his blog, podcasts, discussion videos, and newsletters … which alone can engage them longer and hold up that interest level … which would have otherwise faded soon after putting the book down. Then, there is a longer lasting effect of signing up as a fan or a member of the online community for the product — which incites active discussions and participation. This is where fans have a place and a medium where they can continue to express their opinions and liking for the book, and in the process, keep up the word of mouth activity …that of which is so important to the success of such a product. In effect, it works to extend the life-cycle of a product which could have ended once the hype around it died out.
People are still talking about books like the Da Vinci Code and Harry Potter. People still discuss their interpretations of The Matrix trilogy or popular TV show LOST on online communities. Every time there is even a tidbit of news around the Apple iPhone it makes the rounds of blogs and news publications. They are all great creations in their own rights and we can’t take that away from them. There is however something else they all have in common. All these products are backed by a strong fan base of happy customers who continue to create a buzz. Social networking software contributes to this buzz by mobilizing these communities and giving them a platform to get together and share their experiences with others.
Marketers can use this aspect of social software to their advantage and extend the product life of such offerings by mobilizing their customers online and letting them drive the marketing.
A little word of mouth can go a long way.
Tim is president and co-founder of Axero Solutions, a leading intranet software vendor. He's also a bestselling author of Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Mastering Employee Engagement. Tim’s been featured in Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur, CNBC, Today, and other leading publications.
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