This is the second in a series I’m writing about Contagious:
Why Things Catch On, by Jonah Berger. This book is truly excellent, steeped in
research and yet easy to understand. I recommend getting a copy. In these posts
I’m working to apply the theories in Contagious to creative businesses. You can
read the first post in this series, about how emotion drives action, right here.
Everyday, wherever we go, people are constantly imploring us
to “like” them on Facebook. My drycleaner and my hair salon, our local wine
shop and the grocery store, all have signs up in the window, “Like us on
Facebook.” I look at these signs and think, “Why? Why do I need to like the dog
kennel on Facebook?”
Are all of these companies right in pleading with me to add
them to my Facebook feed?
For a long time my answer was a cynical and definitive no.
But I have changed my tune big time since reading Contagious. Now when my kid’s
shoe store asks me to follow them on Facebook I applaud their efforts. Here’s
Think back fifteen years. It’s 1998. A woman is browsing at
a quilt shop on a Saturday afternoon. She flips through a wall of independently
published print patterns looking for something to make for her new niece. A baby
lovey pattern catches her eye.
It looks cute and when she asks the lady working
at the register if it’s easy to follow the lady says she thinks so. Our
customer buys the pattern and heads home. The next weekend she makes the lovey
and is really happy with the pattern. She puts the lovey in the mail and her
sister calls a few days later to say it’s arrived and to ooh and ahh about how
cute it is. Things end right about there.
Now let’s look at that same customer’s experience today. A
woman is browsing Etsy at midnight on a Tuesday searching for a pattern to make
something for her new niece. A cute baby lovey pattern catches her eye. She reads
through the seller’s Etsy feedback, and looks to see how many sales the seller
has made that day. Wow! People seem to really like these patterns! She's convinced. The seller
has a Facebook page with over 1,000 followers so after buying the pattern she
clicks over and hits “like” on Facebook.
See more toys made by my customers here.
Our customer makes the lovey the next weekend and is really
happy with the pattern so she takes a photo of it with her iPhone and posts it
on the designer’s Facebook wall saying how easy it was to make. She puts the
lovey in the mail. Long before her sister calls to say it’s arrived, all sorts
of people have already oohed and ahhed. The lovey has gotten 46 likes and 13
comments and four new people have become customers of this pattern after seeing
how cute it came out and hearing her say that it was easy to make.
Now she regularly sees photos from the designer's other customers in her newsfeed. They look so cute so she's bought two more patterns to make for other relatives. She's gotten to know the designer better, and feels a part of her community.
Image by Martin Fisch on Flickr.
Most of what we consume we consume in private and that
really hasn’t changed much in the last 15 years. I have no idea what my next
door neighbor bought yesterday, online or not. But now we have the opportunity
to encourage our customers to make that private consumption public. And we need
to take that opportunity to heart because imitation is a huge driver of
Let’s think about what Jonah Berger refers to as the
“behavioral residue” left after each purchase. It’s your Etsy feedback, your customer’s
Instagram photos of things they’ve made from your patterns, and the wall of
your business Facebook page. These public displays of behavior play a
key role in making our products catch on.
Image by littlestschnauzer on Flickr.
“We don’t know the right answer,” Berger says, “and even if
we have some sense of what to do, we’re not entirely sure. So to help resolve
our uncertainty, we often look to what other people are doing and follow that.
We assume that if other people are doing something, it must be a good idea.
They probably know something we don’t."
We couldn’t provide our 1998 customer with public evidence
of other shopper’s behavior, but we can provide our 2013 customers with lots of
social proof that they are indeed making the right choice.
As a creative business owner a portion of your day, every
day, should be invested in transforming your customer’s actions into something
that can be observed.
- If you sell on Etsy and a customer emails you to say how
much they enjoyed your product, email back and ask them to leave feedback in
your shop. Same goes if you’ve written a craft book. You need to ask grateful
readers to write Amazon reviews.
- It doesn’t have to be on Facebook, but the point here is to
create a platform for providing social proof. When customers are able to
publicly show that they are happy using your product the message to everyone
else is clear: buying from you is a popular decision. Uncertainty fades away.
It’s time to click that shopping cart over to checkout.
Behavioral residue serves more than just sales. It opens
other doors for people to engage with you. Facebook followers turn to you for
advice. “What sewing machine should I buy?” “What pattern would be best for my
charity project?” “Where do you get your fleece?” You become the expert. When your
customers get valuable information from you they spread the word to their
friends and your customer base grows.
When I post a picture of my daughter in her new shoes to the
shoe store’s Facebook wall the shoe store is allowing me to make my private
choice public and that is one of the best ways to attract new customers. So I say
bravo to the “like us on Facebook” sign at the register.
Amazon links in this post are affiliate links.
Jody Herbert says
Very interesting – I hadn’t thought about things that way before. I am fairly new to Facebook and have been quite against the whole thing for a long time. But I am slowly coming around to it and your post here has given me a much more positive view on this kind of social media. It makes sense and now I can see why business’s want us to ‘Like’ them. Thanks for sharing this information!
I’ve always despised seeing the “Like Us” signs from large companies and my answer was the same as yours: a “cynical and definitive no.” Now I realize that I was only annoyed at these requests because I was ignorant about the whole reason behind them! I’m looking forward to boldly asking to be liked/linked to/commented on and doing the same to others now that I understand the benefits that can come from it. Again, thanks a bunch!
Eliza Twist says
I agree wholeheartedly! I am just starting to understand the community building aspects of FB. Before it was noise, now I appreciate all that I learn from the places that I like. But the, now I have something to add to the conversation. Before I was just taking it all in and feeling rather confused.
Melissa Haworth says
This is only tangentially related but I know you love podcasts and I recently discovered The Good Life Project (with Jonathan Fields) and he has a great interview with Jonah Berger about this book. If you aren’t already familiar with the podcast you might want to check it out especially for that interview. it’s on iTunes. I found the podcast via Lisa Congdon who is also an interviewee.
Abby Glassenberg says
Melissa, Thank you so much for turning me on to The Good Life Project. I hadn’t heard of it before, but just came in from my morning run and listened to Lisa Congdon’s interview. I love Lisa and the show was fantastic! I will listen to Jonah’s interview soon. I first heard about Contagious through another podcast interview with him. Hooray for podcasts!
Melissa Haworth says
Abby, glad you liked the podcast–I had a feeling you would since it seemed along the lines of some that were in that great list you posted a while ago 🙂 The Seth Godin podcast in the Good Life series was my favorite so far (and I think you are also a Seth Godin fan) and the one with a doctor named Lissa was sort of oddly fascinating.