The Acceleration of Word of Mouth

Filed as Guides on February 20, 2009 4:28 am

In the past, “word of mouth” meant literally that. Now friends telling friends is as likely, or perhaps a little more likely, to involve the tap of keys and click of mouse. Because of this word spreads faster and wider than ever before, and this means you need to be more aware than ever before of the phenomenon and how it affects you.

When something spreads effectively through word of mouth it is considered to have gone “viral”. There are many factors that influence a message to go viral but for the main ones are:

  • Surprising/Unique/Newsworthy/Remarkable
  • Easy to understand
  • Easy to spread
  • Easy to remember
  • Emotionally charged
  • Loaded with benefits

Each case will not necessarily have all of these but the more attributes that match, the more likely it will go viral. In order to make your own messages spread you need to craft it in such a way that you hit most of these points.

Consider the last viral you were sent, perhaps an email joke, a text message that had gone around all your friends, or a YouTube video. If you think about it there will likely be most of these factors, with the benefit being usually fun and laughter.

Of course it is not just good stuff that spreads via word of mouth.We all know bad news travels at light speed.

If you want to attempt to stop bad news spreading then you need to nip it early and effectively. Remove the emotion and benefit from spreading the message by calmly resolving the issue or by going above and beyond in your customer service so if the message is spread it is noteworthy because of positive reasons and not negative. If that fails then you need to make your side of the story clear and memorable. The more complicated a message is, the fewer people it will impact.

Have you got any tips to share?

This post was written by

You can visit the for a short bio, more posts, and other information about the author.

Submissions & Subscriptions

Submit the post to Reddit, StumbleUpon, Digg or

Did you like it? Then subscribe to our RSS feed!

  1. By ACanty posted on December 1, 2010 at 9:09 pm
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    Hi Chris,

    I know this article is from a while back but I just came across it. I think in order to have something spread virally or via word of mouth; you really have to make an impact on the person, good or bad. Word of mouth referrals are much more powerful than anything a company can say or do!


    Your words are your own, so be nice and helpful if you can. If this is the first time you're posting a comment, it might go into moderation. Don't worry, it's not lost, so there's no need to repost it! We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it please.