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SMMC Keynote to Discuss Word-of-Mouth Strategies

Why do some ideas, people, products, behaviors and phrases catch on quickly, sometimes worldwide in an instant, while others flop miserably? Jonah Berger thinks he knows why. Berger has spent 15 years studying and dissecting these things in detail and delivering his thoughts in best-selling books, at conferences and events, and as a consultant for major companies.

Berger will be the keynote speaker, via Skype, at the 2016 Small Market Meetings Conference to be held October 2-4 at the Von Braun Center in downtown Huntsville, Alabama.

Berger, a boyish-looking professor of marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, said knowing these things is a science that influences how people make decisions that shape our behavior and culture.

In his New York Times best-selling book “Contagious: Why Things Catch On,” Berger cites six principles that essentially make an idea or product infectious or, using his word, “sticky.”

“This fall, I’ll be talking about the power of word-of-mouth to grow our businesses and organizations,” said Berger in a recent phone interview while on a book tour. “Word-of-mouth is more effective than traditional advertising, sometimes going 10 times as far. So we have to understand how we can get people talking about and sharing our stuff, especially for small businesses that don’t have a big ad budget.”

Berger discusses these six principles:

• Social Currency — making people feel cool or current

• Emotion — creating a strong emotional response

• Stories — providing an appealing and relatable narrative

• Triggers — prompt top-of-mind, tip-of-tongue thinking

• Public — creating visibility in the media

• Practical Value — making something useful to the average person

“Some of these are more obvious than others,” said Berger. “But if they were that obvious already, the book probably wouldn’t now be out in 30 languages and have sold over 400,000 copies,” he said with a chuckle. Berger said businesses can use these principles and “sharpen them and think about ways to use them further.”

The concept of a social pandemic — an idea, a product or a behavior spreading quickly and widely — is not new. However, Berger said modern social media makes things appear quickly, reproduce and disappear almost as fast. He will share this view at the Small Market Meetings Conference and offer advice on how to take advantage of these methods to promote attendees’ own agendas.

“It’s really about understanding the psychology of sharing,” Berger said. “Social currency is so important. Too often in business, we focus on what we are good at, talking about how great we are. We don’t think how the customer looks when they share our information. We all need to make others feel like “an insider, special or in-the-know,” Berger said.

Berger also will convey that the more people think about something, the more likely they are to talk about it. The challenge is how people should link their messages to something in the environment so others will think and talk about them more often.

To register for the Small Market Meetings Conference, visit