Tear, Unfold and Use

For Chapter 4: "Talk is Cheap"

By Published on .

So there; it's settled. Word of mouth is a priceless means for spreading good news (or, as we shall soon see, bad news.) But that's obvious, isn't it? The problem for marketers, and artists, and politicians, and anybody else with something to sell is to actually, intentionally stimulate WOM – which, historically, has been approximately like trying to control the weather.

These things aren't manufactured. Through an unmanageable convergence of variables, they simply happen. At least, until now. Things have changed. The Internet is a word of mouth engine. Sure, binary code is what makes it all work, but the fuel of the digital age is the instinct to share information, whether in social networks like Facebook and MySpace, blogs, Craig's List and Angie's List, Digg or YouTube. Even Google.

What is the Google algorithm, after all, but the crediting of special value to other people's choices? When you type in a search term, the results you see are determined not just by relevance to what you've asked for, but also by how many others have linked to those pages.

If you enter, for instance, "moist towelette," you are not first directed to the blog called "Moist Towelette," nor to the many retailers and distributors of moist towelettes, nor even to moisttowelettemuseum.com. No, the first result is the homepage of Modern Moist Towelette Collecting, featuring, among other treasures, the moist-towelette-collectors' anthem:

You're Soft
You're Wet
You Smell So Good...

I Love You Moist Towelettes
I Love You Moist Towelettes
I Love You Moist Towelettes
You're Pretty
The Way They Dress You Up
Wanna Take You Home
Open You Up

(Chorus) Can't Wait To Get My Hands On You
Can't Wait To Rub My Hands On You
Can't Wait To Get My Hands On You
Tear Open, Unfold, and Use

Yes, it's lovely. But wipe that tear from your eye and think about why this particular content should get the top position. Simple. There is an active subculture that spends a lot of time there, plus a universe of curiosity seekers such as myself who will drop everything to see what would constitute a WetNap theme song.

This is the sort of website that, once it shows up on Digg, gets dug. By their own private choices to click on and link to Modern Moist Towelette Collecting, thousands of individuals are endorsing the site to the rest of the world. The fact that this is accomplished with a keyboard and mouse makes it no less word of mouth. If Jesus had a website, and everyone else had Google, Peter and Paul would have had to do a lot less schlepping.
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