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June 22, 2006
The 5 steps of how a story spreads
Vincent Ferrari recently recorded his encounter with an AOL customer service rep, who annoyingly wouldn't let him cancel his account immediately. (At one point, the AOL rep asked to speak with the father of the 30-year-old Ferrari.)
Ferrari posted the recording on his blog a week ago. From that, a familiar pattern emerges:
2. The story has plenty of concrete details. Audio, video or photographic evidence are ideal.
3. A tangible form of injustice has occurred (multiple missed appointments, getting fired)
4. As the story reaches a certain threshold of recognition in the blogosphere (a top 5 search term on Technorati), the traditional media react. (Ferrari was interviewed Wednesday by Matt Lauer on The Today Show.)
5. Within a day or two, the traditional network story gets posted to YouTube, and the word of mouth goes nuclear. The non-blogging audience hears the story for the first time, and the original bloggers post updates about the involvement of traditional media.
Update: The Consumerist has details on more media demand for Vincent.
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Although it didn't go ballistic, I had an experience of this and the way smart companies react to adverse blog chatter. I posted a complaint about LinkedIn's customer service and the concerns it gave me about protecting my privacy and reputation. Within 24 hours I had an email and a comment from a company co-founder and within 48 hours the problem was solved. I bet AOL didn't react this quick or positively.
It is very possible that the AOL employee was forced to behave in this manner. This story should be investigated in more depth. My bet is that all AOL call center agents have to discourage account cancellations. The solution is not firing the one agent..my bet he was doing what was expected of him.
This story needs to be investigated further. It is most likely that AOL trains all it's "customer service" agents to discourage account cancellations. The fired the wrong guy!
Couldn't resist being inspired to write-up my own 5 Commandments to word-of-mouth movie marketing.
It was actually a segueway from a recent article I read on how "The Passion of the Christ" became a grassroots phenomenon.
Love reading your posts. Keep inspiring!