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Engineering ‘talkability’ into real-world products

I really liked the article “Give ’em Something to Talk About” on Fast Company.

It looks at Cluetrainy approaches to creating conversation in real-world products and gives a couple of interesting real-world case study examples.

In particular I like the inclusion of Hilton’s Doubletree family of hotels (I haven’t stayed in one before yet) because the product is a clear example of a ‘middle player’ – something which has always been hard to market in our ever-polarizing and segregating consumer market of either quality-orientated or budget-orientated consumers.

It turns out Doubletree offers choc-chip cookies to guests when they check in, which is part of the ‘conversational pieces’ they introduce into the hotel experience. To each individual guest, this appears unique and extraordinary which in-turn creates fodder for conversation.

As the article quite rightly concludes, this ‘talkability’ is something you have to build in at the beginning – and every subsequent step – in your product’s development:

“The fact is that talkability is not a reflex for most of us. We have to work at it. Many companies today seem to believe that word of mouth is something marketers conjure up after a product launch. That’s a tough assignment, akin to hiring a PR agent to generate street buzz about your office’s “white elephant” Christmas party. If you wanted buzz, wouldn’t it have been a better investment to throw a cooler party?

Conversations can’t be “snapped on” after the fact. You have to plan for them. So what’s your plan? How can you give your customers something to talk about?”

But this all leaves me with a curious observation: it seems to m that it’s getting harder to build this talkability into web-apps. Moreover, many social-orientated web-apps seem to confuse the social media elements of their proposition (adding friends, etc) as their ‘talkability’ factor.

The two, I think, are actually quite different.

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