Can you design for word of mouth?

An interesting way to look at the success of your product is whether people are talking to each other about it. I remember going to a conference in San Francisco when Netflix was in what you might call their “word of mouth” phase. Everyone was talking about Netflix, how amazing the service was, and what awesome things you could watch on it. In particular the show The Wire was getting amazing ratings and was being recommended to a lot of folks within the service and most people had never heard of it.

Most products and services are not talked about because they’re not great. But here’s an idea: what if the goal of building a product was to design and refine it until people talked about it? Until your customers were so happy with it that they were selling it for you? What if that was the goal instead of all the other goals we have…like getting a certain feature set in place or releasing it by a certain date, etc?

Can you design for word or mouth? Can you iterate within your design process and make talking and sharing a primary goal? It would certainly make selling your product easier because your customers would be directly helping with the process. And it would seem possible with all the tools we have that allow us to share and track it. With all the benefits of having something being shared by word of mouth, I wonder if we just assume it’s too hard a problem.

Published: February 10th, 2014