Whats Your Take on Word of Mouth

The folks at BzzAgent sent me a nifty book, The Word of Mouth Manual: Volume II. Dave Balter writes and Seth Minkin illustrates (some fun stuff, by the way). What’s different about this book than some others, however, is that Dave LIVES this stuff. He’s in the word of mouth business.

Not BzzAgent specifically, but when it comes to “managed word of mouth,” as Dave calls it, I consider some of these plays to be something like when a liquor vendor pays someone to sit at a bar an talk about how much they love new Zima Black. And yet, that’s some of what’s taking place on the web. I’ve been circling these waters at different points over the last few years and have yet to make up my mind completely.

Balter’s point is that very few companies make a product that speaks for itself, and that guided word of mouth is just a way of helping something take root. I get that, and I think I endorse it, but here’s where I stick (and I haven’t read the whole book in detail, so maybe this is covered very well). I need to know that you’re endorsing something. I need to know that someone sent it to you. And then, I’m quite okay.

That’s how I’m handling the few things people have sent me of late:

  • Nikon D60 camera. (They want it back, but I guess I can buy it off them).
  • Flip Ultra.
  • Garmin Nuvi 200 (this is a loaner).

When I meet someone at a conference and I pull out the camera, someone immediately comments. I then immediately reply that Nikon USA sent it to me to check it out and play with. You might notice that I’ve never blogged about the camera. But EVERY single time someone sees it, I talk about the fact it was sent to me. Ditto the Flip, the Nuvi, etc. (In context. I don’t blurt out confessions).

So, if there’s disclosure, I’m really cool with it. If not, it’s lying. (Oddly, I just searched my PDF version of the book for “disclosure” and found zero hits; searched for “lying” and got about a dozen.)

By the way, if you want a FREE copy of the book for yourself, just click that link.

So what’s your take on it? What do YOU think about Word of Mouth and how this all works?

I don’t think you should discount the book. It’s a decent read, full of ideas and arguments. I think it’s worth considering, if only to further your impressions and opinions on the matter. Me? I’m still out. Why don’t you tell me your take?

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  • Tina

    New BzzAgent looking forward to reading this book. This is my first campaign.

  • Carol Bird

    After reading the manual I thought I’d leave a comment on Chrisbrogan.com as follows:

    I’ve been a BzzAgent for BzzAgent.co.uk for about 4 months now and this manual is my 2nd campaign.

    As I visited and downloaded the manual from your website to read I thought I’d share my comments on the manual and BzzAgent with you.

    It was an entertaining read using quirky and fun examples (Such as The Grateful Dead and the Rock Hall of Fame) to make its point, hopefully it will allay the fears of someone like you Chris, who perhaps doesn’t really believe in WOM as a concept.

    I find it interesting in the extreme that so many people who would laugh at the idea of being a BzzAgent actually spread Word of Mouth daily without being aware of it (My husband being a case in point, he loves to tell anyone who listens how good a Radio Station, Radio Virgin is without realising that he is passing on WOM) so reading this book just confirmed this point with quirky and fun examples!

    A good BzzAgent always reveals that he/she was given the chance to try the product (In this case Download) by BzzAgent. We are not paid or managed. The product is ours to try and comment on honestly to our friends and family, the good and the bad! We are not sales people and aren’t trying to sell a product. If after hearing about a product from us, someone would like to try it for their selves, we usually have vouchers to give out that allow a small discount off the product.

    If you managed to read the whole book Chris I would be interested in any comment that you may have to pass back to BzzAgent through my report (my email was included on the comment form). Did it change your views or are you still sceptical I would be honoured to be sent your comments.

  • Carol Bird

    After reading the manual I thought I’d leave a comment on Chrisbrogan.com as follows:

    I’ve been a BzzAgent for BzzAgent.co.uk for about 4 months now and this manual is my 2nd campaign.

    As I visited and downloaded the manual from your website to read I thought I’d share my comments on the manual and BzzAgent with you.

    It was an entertaining read using quirky and fun examples (Such as The Grateful Dead and the Rock Hall of Fame) to make its point, hopefully it will allay the fears of someone like you Chris, who perhaps doesn’t really believe in WOM as a concept.

    I find it interesting in the extreme that so many people who would laugh at the idea of being a BzzAgent actually spread Word of Mouth daily without being aware of it (My husband being a case in point, he loves to tell anyone who listens how good a Radio Station, Radio Virgin is without realising that he is passing on WOM) so reading this book just confirmed this point with quirky and fun examples!

    A good BzzAgent always reveals that he/she was given the chance to try the product (In this case Download) by BzzAgent. We are not paid or managed. The product is ours to try and comment on honestly to our friends and family, the good and the bad! We are not sales people and aren’t trying to sell a product. If after hearing about a product from us, someone would like to try it for their selves, we usually have vouchers to give out that allow a small discount off the product.

    If you managed to read the whole book Chris I would be interested in any comment that you may have to pass back to BzzAgent through my report (my email was included on the comment form). Did it change your views or are you still sceptical I would be honoured to be sent your comments.

  • cjsmom (Karen H.)

    I am a volunteer BzzAgent. Most BzzAgent’s are completely transparent and we are proud of it! I loved the manual. I wouldn’t have purchased it but I loved every word. Anything that people talk about is considered word of mouth, whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent. The world would be a totally different place without Word of Mouth.

  • cjsmom (Karen H.)

    I am a volunteer BzzAgent. Most BzzAgent’s are completely transparent and we are proud of it! I loved the manual. I wouldn’t have purchased it but I loved every word. Anything that people talk about is considered word of mouth, whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent. The world would be a totally different place without Word of Mouth.

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  • http://fairburytales.wordpress.com Chautona

    I’m a Bzz Agent and yes, of course I disclose that I am. Why wouldn’t I give credit to the people who provided me with free samples of something? to me, that just seems obvious. Otherwise, it’d be like receiving a gift and not sending a thank-you note! NOT COOL.

    I like having a chance to get other people’s input about things because honestly, they often have a different perspective than I’d considered and it helped make wise decisions.

  • http://fairburytales.wordpress.com Chautona

    I’m a Bzz Agent and yes, of course I disclose that I am. Why wouldn’t I give credit to the people who provided me with free samples of something? to me, that just seems obvious. Otherwise, it’d be like receiving a gift and not sending a thank-you note! NOT COOL.

    I like having a chance to get other people’s input about things because honestly, they often have a different perspective than I’d considered and it helped make wise decisions.

  • Bzz Agent Glinrae

    As a Buzz Agent, I use WOM to share new products with people who haven’t heard of or tried them yet. Often, I am able to share free samples, or provide coupons for a discount. These coupons and samples allow people to try a product they might normally hesitate about spending money on. No one wants to risk their money (especially in today’s economy) and waste in on a useless/poorly designed/etc. product. Once consumers try out a new product (for free or at a discount), if they like it, they will continue to use it. As a Buzz Agent, I take it a step further and share how I feel about a product with other people – whether I like it or not, and why. I then provide my feedback, and the feedback of the people I Buzz, to the company, and then they can modify (or not) their product as needed.

  • Bzz Agent Glinrae

    As a Buzz Agent, I use WOM to share new products with people who haven’t heard of or tried them yet. Often, I am able to share free samples, or provide coupons for a discount. These coupons and samples allow people to try a product they might normally hesitate about spending money on. No one wants to risk their money (especially in today’s economy) and waste in on a useless/poorly designed/etc. product. Once consumers try out a new product (for free or at a discount), if they like it, they will continue to use it. As a Buzz Agent, I take it a step further and share how I feel about a product with other people – whether I like it or not, and why. I then provide my feedback, and the feedback of the people I Buzz, to the company, and then they can modify (or not) their product as needed.

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    Balter’s point is that very few companies make a product that speaks for itself, and that guided word of mouth is just a way of helping something take root. I get that, and I think I endorse it, but here’s where I stick (and I haven’t read the whole book in detail, so maybe this is covered very well). I need to know that you’re endorsing something. I need to know that someone sent it to you. And then, I’m quite okay.

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