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Generating Referrals Can be Its Own Reward

060405b The agencies which were "early adopters" of planned word-of-mouth advertising campaigns are beginning to develop a deeper understanding of the process really works. Apparently, it's not enough to be a big fan, you have to be a fan who wants to influence others. And maybe you just have to be a fan of being an influencer(?)...

LA Times: Taking the Fans' Word for It by Charles Duhigg, March 15, 2006

"We started looking for the top 1% of fans," Neupert said, explaining how he built teams of online volunteers for each campaign by finding people who were "already proactively searching for information about the band or TV show they loved." Then, M80 created Internet forums that contained information, clips and gossip, and primers on how to spread the word....

The most successful promoters were rewarded with T-shirts, CDs and sneak peeks of upcoming releases. But more than getting freebies, Neupert said, his volunteers liked believing that their opinions mattered. ...

Neupert says dedicated volunteers such as Mayo are the key to his company's success. But he admits that Mayo has also disproved some of his theories about superfans. After "Highlander" lured her to join, Mayo began signing up to promote TV shows she had never seen before, such as the FX Network's war drama "Over There." ... "I find that when I say, 'I don't know what this TV show is about,' other people start saying, 'Well, let's figure it out together,' " she said.

Being an effective word-of-mouth campaigner, it turns out, may have less to do with one's enthusiasm for the product and more to do with how much one enjoys campaigning. "You can't fake passion," Neupert said. "As long as we have team members who want to enthusiastically share their opinions, they'll convince others to try something new."