John Moore (who is one of my book reviewing peers at 800-CEO-READ-BLOG) turned me on to this summary of an HBS case on BzzAgent. It’s a nice overview of how word of mouth marketing (aka customer evangelism) is affected by network types and the players within them.
The most interesting – and counterintuitive – assertion in this piece is that the most influential source of incremental word of mouth marketing comes from individuals with weak ties to your organization, meaning that they’ve only experienced your brand once before, as opposed to being repeat or long-term customers. The reasoning behind this is that more loyal individuals have already saturated their networks with talk about your offering, while less loyal folk offer virgin fields, so to speak, for you to plow.
This is a nice way of thinking about the dynamics of word of mouth for established brands. For nascent players or offerings, however, you’d have to alter your tactics, because very few individuals, if any, are loyal to you, and in order to cross the chasm you’ve got to establish some pockets of deep loyalty.