Skip to main

Spike Jones – The Twitter 20 Interview on Word of Mouth Marketing

Authors: Jay Baer Jay Baer
Posted Under: Social Media
Listen to this Article

spike jones word of mouth marketingMarketing is about campaigns. Word of Mouth is about movements. So says Spike Jones, Firestarter at Brains on Fire, the Greenville, South Carolina agency that has been lauded in a shopping cart full of articles and books.

A director of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), Spike has an incredibly clear picture of how word of mouth marketing can and should work. Seemingly unaffected by the somewhat nebulous nature of WOM, Spike’s Change This manifesto on the topic is an absolute must-read. The Brains on Fire blog should also be on your RSS list.

One of the brightest and funniest minds in marketing today, Spike dispenses buckets full of 140-character wisdom in this inspirational Twitter interview, that surely will be remembered as one of the very best in the Twitter 20 interview series.


@jaybaer: 1. What’s the most important way that Word-of-Mouth marketing differs from traditional?

  • @spikejones: It’s of the people and by the people. Advertising is for AWARENESS. WOM is for CREDIBILITY. There’s a big difference.

@jaybaer: 2. If WOM is used to build credibility, does it only work with current customers/fans? Are you preaching to the choir?

  • @spikejones: Good question. And no, it’s not preaching to the choir. People trust people who are just like them.
  • You don’t have to start with people who love your company – start with those that love your category.
  • But if you arm those folks with tools (online and OFF), then they will spread the word and recruit beyond the choir.

@jaybaer: 3. So how do you integrate WOM into traditional marketing? Or can you? Does WOM live on an island?

  • @spikejones: We’ve done both. The cool thing about using WOM by itself (out of $$ necessity) is that you can measure it easier.
  • But also, when you pair it with a larger effort, it amplifies your efforts across the board.
  • There has to be an effort for a balance of the two. So they not only work in harmony, but for the bottom line.

@jaybaer: Yes, I imagine the messaging in traditional has to at least support/be believable in WOM. Quality indeed has to be job 1.

  • @spikejones: Word.

@jaybaer: 4. Glad you mentioned results. Do you define success metrics before you start? Are there data you use? Net Promoter?

  • Absolutely. The first thing we do is sit down and ask, “What will we be celebrating 3,6,9 and 12 months from now?
  • Everything from sales to online mentions/sentiment to how the community contributes across all company functions.
  • NPS is also an indicator. But we know in the end, it’s sales. The green is king, baby. But it’s a byproduct of WOM.

@jaybaer: 5. Can you convince companies of the need for WOM, or do they “get it” before coming to @brainsonfire Do the rich just get richer?

  • @spikejones: For us to be successful, we have to find a believer inside the company from the beginning.
  • Fortunately, in most cases, they find us first. We call them “Same Tribe” (to borrow a phrase from Love146).
  • They become our internal advocate and help work it from the inside. It’s a beautiful thing.

@jaybaer: 6. Can WOM work for all brands? Fiskars isn’t sexy, but you did it for them. Are movements available to all companies?

  • @spikejones: Let’s clarify: I do think that WOM can work in just about any category.
  • But can it work for any company? No. The company has to believe and not just try to put butts in seats.
  • If their culture is not ready, they will fail. If their mindset is not right, they will fail. We see it all the time.

@jaybaer: 7. You’ve talked about WOM needing a soul. Does BoF do brand anthropology to find it for clients?

  • @spikejones: We are not anthropologists. But our roots are in identity development. So it’s very natural for us to dig down into a company.
  • We go and walk a mile in our clients and their customers shoes to figure out what makes them tick.
  • Sure, you have to do online mining for conversations. But that’s the price of entry – who DOESN’T do that?
  • But then we go live it. We’ve mowed lawns in FL. Delivered dry cleaning in Boston. Worked the big-box retail floor in LA.
  • It’s feet on the street. Heavy lifting. There’s no ivory towers. It’s really hard – but very rewarding work

@jaybaer: 8. Seems like companies aren’t very good at finding their own soul. Too close to it? They always focus on features, no?

  • @spikejones: Some companies ROCK at it (Chick-Fil-A, Patagoina, USAA), but a lot don’t. We call it “reframing the conversation.”
  • It can’t be the PRODUCT conversation any longer. It has to be the PASSION conversation.
  • So, it’s not about how awesome your product is, it’s how does that product/service fit into a person’s life?
  • When we reframe the conversation, we look through the lens of the customer. And the whole world changes.

@jaybaer: It’s not about scissors, it’s about what you can do with scissors.

  • @spikejones: EXACTLY. In that case, was create these beautiful works of art that people use to capture memories and celebrate lives.

@jaybaer: 9. The objective is always to turn customers into advocates, right? Can you describe how the BoF “Fan Cycle” maps this?
brains on fire fan cycle word of mouth marketing

  • @spikejones: Sure. You can find it here:  @genochurch is the creator of the idea.
  • 1. Participation. Allowing people to participate in your brand experience. Like when you bring someone to hear your fav band.
  • Evangelism – creating a place that has identity and a shared sense of purpose so your success is your customers success.
  • OWNERSHIP = empowerment. Giving the reigns to the customers and letting them drive. TRUE ownership and nothing less.

@jaybaer: 10. You and Geno are the faces of BoF (at least in social media). Is that “humanization” of BoF intentional? Important?

  • @spikejones: To be credible, we have to practice what we preach. We are people. A tribe. (A cult sometimes) Like-minded people.
  • We all stand shoulder-to-shoulder. Equals. @robbinphillips and @gregorycordell have created a place that allows us to unapologeticly be who we are. Never intentional. It’s our DNA. But Geno and I aren’t the only visible (or important) ones.

@jaybaer: 11. (from @blakegroup) Where does WOM live in most client companies? PR? Marketing? Customer Service? Who owns it?

  • @spikejones: Who owns it? Whomever believes in it the most. The champion. The protector. The believer. I don’t care what dept.
  • Because a WOM movement will permeate every corner of your company. R&D, IT, PR, Mktg – it doesn’t matter.
  • One of our clients is head of PR. Another is in the mktg dept. That’s a stupid fight for who “owns” it. Eff that.
  • It belongs to everybody and can be (and has been) started in every dept across the board. Beautiful.

@jaybaer: 12. You talk about “influencers” being unimportant. Contrary to what a lot of people are saying. Can you clarify?

  • @spikejones: We buck the “influencer” model. In most cases, you’re renting a billboard for a week that will never talk about you again.
  • Influence can be MADE. Passion can’t. So we’d much rather find passionate people and make them influential.
  • With the right tools/training, creating influence is getting pretty easy. But passion – that’s part of someones’ DNA.
  • We do talk with “influencers” at the beginning of any movement – but to get their input and advice. Not to lead the program.
  • Everybody and their dog are going after the “influncers.” But people trust people JUST LIKE THEM.
  • And I don’t know a lot of people JUST LIKE Oprah. Do you??

@jaybaer: 13. Even though we’re on Twitter, Word-of-Mouth is critical offline too, correct? How do you combine online/offline WOM?

  • @spikejones: Keller/Fay reports that 90% of WOM happens OFFLINE. That isn’t going to change anytime soon. As great as SM is, it’ll never replace the power of face-to-face. So we have to make sure that OFFline supports ONline and vise-versa.
  • When we are observing their lives, we figure out what kind of OFFline tools they would really use to spread the word.
  • And with a sense of ownership, they will be sure to tell friends and family about it online and off, so they weave together.

@jaybaer: 14. If 90% of WOM occurs offline, is social media not a significant WOM component, is social media way overhyped or both?

  • @spikejones: I just think there is WAY too much hype with SM. It’s a great tool. But it’s a tool people. Not the answer to everything.
  • SM is a piece of the puzzle. You know who is overhyping SM? SM people! It’s all they talk about. Jeez.
  • We won a Gold EFFIE for a WOM movement which had no SM. At. All. Can you do this without it? Yes.
  • But we can also find ways to leverage it beyond a twitter account and a facebook fan page.

@jaybaer: Social media isn’t a conversation, it’s one of the locations where the conversation takes place.

  • @spikejones: Exactly. SM is a good thing. But we all need to go to social media grad school, because everyone knows the 101 now.

@jaybaer: 16. But don’t you think as definition of SM continues to broaden, it’s starting to encompass customer exp and WOM?

  • @spikejones: No. WOM encompasses those two things. SM and customer experience are tools in the WOM workshop.
  • WOM is bigger than those two. It’s the umbrella under which they reside.

@jaybaer: 17. If WOM is about credibility, as more companies try to do WOM, is there a risk of consumer burnout?

  • @spikejones: I think that there could be. But the great thing is that there are a lot of different personalities out there.
  • So they can connect with different companies in a category. Not all football fans like the Cowboys, ya know?
  • I think there will continue to be a lot of opportunities.

@jaybaer: 18. You advise to have a “barrier to entry” (PDF) to join the movement. Flies in the face of having a Facebook fan page, no?

  • @spikejones: Yes it does. But how many social media communities have you signed up for? And how many do you actually use on a daily basis?
  • We want deep relationships. Not shallow ones with people that use a sign up form, look around and never come back.
  • A small barrier of entry allows us to see who is willing to give a tiny slice of time to be a part of the movement.
  • We never deny people entry, but we want to make sure they are willing to give as well as receive.
  • It’s one of the secret sauces of our successes.

@jaybaer: 19. @brainsonfire gives away a lot of great content, you’re active in @womma etc. Why so charitable with secret sauce?

  • @spikejones: LOL. Well, it’s one thing to tell people how you do something. But really it’s 75% gut and can’t be taught.
  • But the other reason is that what we do is really hard work. And the vast majority of people aren’t willing to do it.
  • We hope our content inspires people to think beyond marketing. If we can do that, we’ll share everything we have.
  • And, believe me – we still have a lot of secrets.

@jaybaer: 20. You’re located in Greenville, SC. How does that help @brainsonfire to be out of the glitz of NYC, LA, SF? Or does it?

  • @spikejones: It’s one of the first questions we get asked: “You guys are in Greenville, SC?” And you know our response?
  • We tell them we CHOOSE to live here. We have folks from all over the country who work here. And we all chose to live here.
  • Greenville is a community. So what better place to learn about true communities than to live in one?
  • We have had clients come visit us and then bring their families back for vacation here. It’s a best-kept secret.
  • Besides, we don’t have to worry about what the agencies in NYC, LA, CHI are doing. We are in our own world down here.
  • And you know what? It seems to be working out pretty well for us.

Wow. Not even sure where to begin. Some serious gold from Spike in that interview. I think my favorite was “We want deep relationships. Not shallow ones with people that use a sign up form, look around and never come back.” But, there are so many other great points.

Will you leave a comment on which piece of advice in this interview you can put into practice ASAP? I’d appreciate it.

Article Banner Image

Get our best tips. Join the smartest marketers who receive our twice monthly update.

Join the Social Pros LinkedIn Community

Join a community of real social pros doing social media on LinkedIn. Receive all the inspiration and ideas straight to your feed and add your thoughts to the conversation.

Follow Social Pros on LinkedIn

Subscribe to Social Pros Podcast

b2b influencer

Ready to Get Started?

I am looking for...