Have you ever tweeted out or updated your Facebook status with a question that you could just Google for the answer? When my friend Sarah does that she calls it a “lazy tweet” because she could have just as easily put the question to Google and looked over the search results. I’m no psychologist but it seems to me that it’s really not laziness that drives this behavior. I see it as being the desire for a human answer versus an answer trolled from gazillions of gigabytes of data. Sure, we may not be looking at each other in the eye when the question is posed but simply knowing that the response received is coming from human experience and not a search engine holds a great deal of importance.
Do you remember how we used to give each other directions to our homes or local establishments? Now we direct people to Google Maps or Mapquest. While those tools have become increasingly efficient and accurate over the years, they still lack the human touch. Mapping services don’t always recognize easier ways to get between two places; routes that you know from experience yield quicker results. And those “layers” that can be added to maps don’t always tell the whole story about restaurants and local venues. Consider this tale based on a true experience.
Sue was visiting an area she used to know fairly well but time had changed the landscapes of her old stomping grounds. Before the trip, tentative plans were made to meet with an old friend, Karen. When it came to the point of actually settling on a time and place, Sue was at a loss as to where they should meet. Karen did not offer any suggestions, so Sue asked the person she was staying with, someone who had lived in the area for many, many years, for suggestions. The response she received was, “Google it”. A bit taken back by that reply, Sue decided to go with it and consulted the all-knowing Google. The results were not easy to decipher as she was not sure where so many of the places she was looking at were located. After several searches using Google Maps and Google Earth views with location layers, Sue finally decided on a cafe that seemed to be about half way between where she was staying and her friend’s home.
On the morning of the meeting, Sue followed Google Maps’ expert directions to the cafe, only to find that it was one of those places set-up inside an office building that services people who work in the area during the business week. It was not open on that Saturday morning that Sue was meeting her friend. Karen also found the address and together the friends headed to a Starbucks Karen had passed on her way to the cafe.
That human experience is the primary reason why word of mouth marketing works so well. We trust people’s opinions, even more so when those people are somehow significant to us: friends, family members, coworkers, Twitter followers, and so on. You can search and search for a place to meet for coffee but what you really want is someone to say, “Why don’t you try this place? We had a great experience there!” You can research and research a product, vacation spot, restaurant, book, movie, anything that you are interested in trying but the information you want the most is “what did others think about it”? Even factors like cost and location will take a backseat if the information you get from those who have tried it is compelling and honest.
So the next time someone asks you for directions or a coffee spot recommendation or even whether or not Justin Bieber ever sang with Usher, don’t just point them to Google. Give them the benefit of your knowledge and experience, you’ll both be better off for it.