There’s nothing more powerful than word of mouth. We all know how quickly the whirlwind of hearsay can move, both positively and negatively, when a brand is on the mind and lips of customers. Sometimes, having so many people talking about your company can be a good thing… a very good thing. Going viral might be an aim for many, but virality’s essence is hard to bottle.

On the other hand, a few negative social media threads and blogs can turn a brand into the market’s whipping boy just as quickly. That is why it is so important for companies to harness word of mouth and use it to their advantage. How can you not only get people talking about your brand, but talking about it positively?

Simple: let people talk about themselves.

See, your brand is not just a company to your customers; it is part of their life. The part you occupy may be large or small, but there you are, integral to their experience. Brands that can successfully leverage what they mean to customers can whip up a bit of positive word of mouth.

Take Legal & General, for example. When they wanted to increase customer engagement, they didn’t just say: “Talk about us.” They asked their customers on social media, “What would you say to your younger self?” Social media blew up with personal stories about what really has value in life. As an insurance company, this question created a perfect transition into a conversation about protecting what matters.

People love to talk about themselves; that’s no surprise. If you can create a conversation that allows people to talk about themselves while talking about your company, that’s a win-win for everyone. The suggestion that your customers’ experiences intimately involve your company’s offerings is a powerful one.

These experiences are so much more effective than any advertising, but it comes with responsibility. Brands need to know what their customers want to talk about – it’s important to guide the conversation, not manipulate it. Customers are savvy and know the difference between being appreciated and being a puppet. So make sure the question is organic, both as it relates to your company, and in terms of being a genuine question that people would want to answer.

In this way, by asking customers, “tell me about you,” you’re really saying, “tell me about me.”

And that’s just good advertising.

Customers just want to talk about themselves