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The more people talk about your business, the greater your chance for success. More chatter translates to more income.

Good word of mouth spreads best with a positive push, which is where Jay Baer lends his expertise. His consulting firm, Convince & Convert, helps iconic national brands. His book, “Talk Triggers,” delves deep into the hows and whys of generating memorable buzz.

Baer talked with Ivana Taylor and Iva Ignjatovic about “Talk Triggers” and how to create chatter about your business.

Ignjatovic is a marketing, strategy, leadership and business consultant who works closely with Taylor, who owns DIYMarketers, a company “committed to helping small business owners get out of overwhelm.”

It’s more than semantics to say there is a difference between being social and doing social.

“People can feel the difference,” Taylor said. “Being social is a reflection of who you are in the world. Doing social is posting for the sake of posting.”

Ignjatovic sees the main difference as active or automated.

“Being social is to engage authentically and figure out business benefit later,” Baer said. “When doing social, figure out business benefit first, and engage accordingly. I like the first approach.”

Start social media conversations by saying hi and asking questions. The response — if any — tells you if there’s a chance for interaction or better to move on. As Ignjatovic explained, engagement comes from actual interaction with people.

“It’s usually a question or a comment to someone who I admire based on something they’ve written, produced or shared,” Taylor said.

Baer takes a different approach.

“I don’t ping a lot of people to start conversations,” he said. “I make observations, and then discuss in the comments.

“For me, social is just a super short blog post, in many cases,” Baer said. “I don’t use social like public email, as some folks do.”

Hashtags play an important role in social media business conversations. They help you find social media topics and conversations. They also help attract others to you.

“They make the conversation easier, like with Twitter chats,” Ignjatovic said. “With hashtags, it’s easier to find relevant content and people we want to connect with.”

In a sense, hashtags are a commodity.

“You can’t buy one, but you can ‘own’ one,” Taylor said. “Better yet, your customers can create one for you.”

Baer described hashtags’ untapped potential.

“More companies use Instagram, and hashtags are now in play on LinkedIn,” he said. “Plus, with so much content now, hashtags make it easier to find the stuff you want.”

Chatter was usually connected to offline activities, but has evolved with social media.

“Word of mouth has been around since caveman commerce,” Baer said. “Now, 50 percent of word of mouth is online — mostly social, but social does not equal word of mouth. It’s a way word of mouth spreads.”

He added that word of mouth is the most important, least appreciated thing in business.

In “Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking,” Taylor writes, “Great marketing strategies never go out of style for a reason – because they work.

“Word of mouth is one of those strategies,” she stated. “It doesn’t cost a fortune, and it works like crazy. Then, when you add the latest social media tools, you have word-of-mouth marketing on steroids.”

The words have even more impact, according to Ignjatovic, because they “travel at the speed of internet multiplied with the speed of human interaction.”

There are organic ways to create awareness for a business or brand. One way is storytelling. This is the most original and intimate way to create business and brand awareness. Three dimensions are better than two.

“The key is to have a ‘talk trigger,’ an operational differentiator in your business that compels word of mouth,” Baer said. “Give your customers something to tell their friends about.”

Examples include DoubleTree Hotels giving a chocolate-chip cookie, The Cheesecake Factory and its giant menu, plus UberConference with hilarious on-hold music.

“These are all talk triggers, and you need one,” Baer said. “A talk trigger allows you to do word of mouth on purpose instead of on accident.”

These tactics resonate with Taylor.

This is the difference between being and doing,” she said. “The organic way is to take time to discover your differentiator that everyone is going to talk about — maybe tweaking and watching it evolve with customers.”

Ignjatovic noted that “genuine and valuable communication can start a buzz, evolving into awareness, creating brand supporters.”

This matches with Adweek research that found 74 percent of consumers consider word of mouth as most influential to their buying decisions.

To increase brand awareness, social media is widespread and instant. Plus, there’s the added advantage of being cheap. You don’t have to pay for ads if you have a good organic-reach approach.

“Once you have your differentiator — one that’s recognized by your customers — their sharing on social is infectious,” Taylor said.

Baer cautioned against getting too excited about online results.

“I’m not sure social is the best place,” he said. “Social spreads fastest, but I’d prefer a balance between online and offline conversations.”

Word of mouth has great credibility for promoting a business. There is more credence put in people who willingly and enthusiastically speak well of a company.

“For small business in combination with social media, absolutely,” Ignjatovic said. “However, word of mouth takes time. It requires consistent quality of everything we do.”

She added that word of mouth is the top purchase influencer among millennials.

“Word of mouth is the most effective and cost-effective way to grow any business, regardless of size,” Baer said. “The very best way to acquire new customers is to turn your current customers into volunteer marketers.”

Word of mouth improves the more a brand interacts within its community. That shows potential customers that there are real people who care behind the company.

“Every business has word of mouth,” Taylor said. “The real question is are you the one controlling it, or are your customers just saying whatever they say. The way to improve is to be conscious of what your talk trigger will be.”

Convince & Convert research shows that 83 percent of Americans say that a word-of-mouth recommendation from a friend or family member makes them more likely to purchase that product or service.

“You need a talk trigger,” Baer said. “It’s something you do consistently, on purpose, that customers don’t expect, that causes them to talk about you to their friends, online and offline.”

Consumers value word of mouth, and businesses believe it is effective. It also takes time and effort. Too often, brands or customers say they have neither. That’s why genuine word-of-mouth movements strike a chord and leave lasting impressions.

“Word of mouth is under-appreciated because it can be a little tricky to measure, exists both online and offline,” Baer said. “Most companies just assume it happens, instead of making it happen.”

This is why the “being” component of word of mouth is often ignored, according to Taylor.

Social media buzz is a start, but brands need to follow it up with action to back up the words. Social media is just one part of an overall marketing strategy.

“Some say social media buzz is enough to grow sales,” Taylor said. “I believe everything has to work together: the product, the service, the experience, the marketing. That’s what builds profits.”

Ignjatovic compared social media buzz to “a starting point, a spark that might die out if all we have is just that one.”

Regardless, Baer said social media is only part of the solution.

“I wouldn’t advise people to rely solely on social media to grow customers,” he said. “Social plus offline plus email … You need to have a marketing mix, especially because social is so volatile.

“Don’t build your house entirely on rented land,” Baer said.

He and Taylor talked more in depth about creating business chatter in a podcast.

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Jim Katzaman
Jim Katzaman is a manager at Largo Financial Services. A writer by trade, he graduated from Lebanon Valley College, Pennsylvania, with a Bachelor of Arts in English. He enlisted in the Air Force and served for 25 years in public affairs – better known in the civilian world as public relations. He also earned an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science in Public Affairs. Since retiring, he has been a consultant and in the federal General Service as a public affairs specialist. He also acquired life and health insurance licenses, which resulted in his present affiliation with Largo Financial Services. In addition to expertise in financial affairs, he gathers the majority of his story content from Twitter chats. This has led him to publish about a wide range of topics such as social media, marketing, sexual harassment, workplace trends, productivity and financial management. Medium has named him a top writer in social media.

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