The Spoon Model





The Spoon Model. Simple, cheap, and incredibly effective, it is a pattern for word of mouth marketing and viral campaigns that I’ve been developing since first utilizing it for the USB Absinthe Spoon. It’s simple: create a cool product, then launch a contest where people are invited to tell you why they deserve one for free. Create an “Offer Page”, where viewers can submit their entries in a blog-comment fashion for everyone to see. (Less than 24 hours after the USB Absinthe Spoon offer page launch, there were almost 500 submissions – that’s 500 free, user-generated, word of mouth advertisements about how cool the product is.) Then, give the product away free to those users who are the most creative and seem the most likely to be Product Evangelists. They’re easy to spot by their awesome blogs and entertaining creativity.

I’ve since further developed and refined this model, and I’m now at a place with it where I have something I can share (and I’d love to hear your feedback).

The Spoon Model comes in 3 parts, or phases: the Big Seed, the Offer, and the Aftershock. The Big Seed is the most difficult, and the Aftershock is the most rewarding. The real key to the entire model is targeting and appealing to those social media users that are the most engaged in the process of actually creating, defined in Forester’s Social Technographics report as the “creator set” (bloggers are the most obvious examples of this group, but heavy Flickr and YouTube users are also creators).

The Big Seed
Even the most contagious of viral campaigns cannot sustain a transmission rate over 1.0 for very long, so the trick is to kick off every WOMM campaign with a “Big Seed.” By spreading the message far and wide by hand at the launch and attempting to secure as big of an initial “seeding” as possible, we can maximize the number of people who’ll see the creative. Social news websites like Digg and del.icio.us, as well as high-traffic blogs, are the perfect places to launch a Spoon Model campaign, because they are not only popular enough to be considered a Big Seed, but also, the viewers are typically more engaged social media users, and are more likely than the average web user to spread a viral message. However you choose to seed your campaign, you should link it to the next part of the Spoon Model, the Offer.

The Offer
The Spoon Model doesn’t take a lot of words to explain, and it doesn’t take a ton of time for a user to participate in or share. The idea is simple: tell us why you deserve a product, and we’ll give you one for free. Using the well-known product-giveaway model as a structure and inserting different products (which are hopefully somewhat unique and novel) means that the Spoon Model is a new twist on an old setup.

The invitation to public expression (don’t just tell us, tell the entire world why you deserve to win free stuff), along with the aspirational nature of a contest and a free prize, encourages people to strive to succeed and stimulates the word of mouth effect. Hopefully the product itself is also empowering in some way and the description of it on the offer emphasizes this.

There is an exhibitionist and voyeuristic edge to the pile of offer requests that develops in the first few days of a successful Spoon Model campaign. People can read, write and even respond to the endless comments that appear. Visiting the offer page becomes an exercise in social interaction, all focused around the experience of the product, and usually all glowingly positive (since everyone wants to win).

The Spoon Model also makes a direct appeal to most of the major social media user profiles (as defined in Social Technographics) and levels of engagement.

Creators, as well as critics, will have a field day crafting more and more creative and sometimes outrageous responses to the offer; Creators will also likely blog about the offer (especially if they’ve contributed in the comments section). Creator-level users are the best candidates for winners, since they will likely be the most fervent about creating content and buzz after the contest is over.

Social bookmarking links should be included on the offer page (as they should be included on most marketing efforts these days), and Collectors are likely to use these links, both during the contest and afterwards, if they’re selected as winners. Accounts should be set up at various social bookmark and media sites with pictures or videos of the product, and links about it, using one or a few tags that specifically relate to the product. Then the winners of the contest should be encouraged to contribute their media to these sites using the specific tags.

The pile of submissions to the contest will provide hours of glowingly positive user-generated ads for the spectator-level social media users to read through, and since it’s all user-generated, viewers will be much more likely to trust it.

The Aftershock
Hopefully, what we’ve done by drawing heavy social media users to the offer, engaging every level of social media interaction, and then putting our product in the hands of the best creators who ask for it, is to create a group of customer evangelists. If the product is good, the bloggers and other creators who’ve gotten a free one will be inclined to do what they do best: blog and talk about your product (and here’s your word of mouth advertising). We should encourage the winners to post pictures of how they use the product, and videos as well, to places like Flickr and YouTube (complete with the product-specific tags that we started on our own accounts on these sites). Each winner has the potential to (and being from the Creator set, it’s highly likely that they will) become a seed for an entirely new wave of the WOMM campaign.

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{ 5 comments }

Daniel Lyons June 11, 2007 at 5:42 pm

I suspect you don’t get told the truth very often. So pay attention: You’re an ASSHOLE.

Dan Zarrella June 11, 2007 at 6:35 pm

Daniel, My puzzlement with your comment comes in two parts, first, why exactly am I an asshole? and second, why do you think I’m rarely told the truth?

Andrea Hill December 14, 2008 at 12:13 pm

I’ve often tried to explain this approach to people, by showing them how Rohit Bhargava promoted “personality not included”. This post explains the concept better than I can, so I’ll just start sending people here now. Thanks!

Paul - Leeds photo daily April 18, 2009 at 5:35 pm

Dan, I am a relative newbie at blogging and need all the help I can get, I am not really a marketeer, but at least I know that. I set up Leeds Photo Daily because photography is where I am at. For the rest of it I have to look on the web and see what others recommend.

Viral Advertising Agency Asa Bailey May 4, 2009 at 5:56 am

I like your work, I like your thinking – I have a HOST of problems with viral seeding – and I have come to the conclusion that ALL viral seeding efforts are futile. This is as they have no real effect on ROI, save your time – buy ads – yes online – in Social Media – and drive “targeted” users to your viral content. Its the only way to get cut through and BIG SEED in the start. Take it from me – I know.

Enjoyed your posts, Asa B.

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