Spike Jones’ Rules of Engagement: How To Get an Audience to Spread the Word



April 25, 2013 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

Spike Jones is in the business of getting people to listen.

And he’s in the right business. When he started talking at Social Fresh, I listened… and so did the other 300 people in the room.


Image Via Social Fresh Facebook Page

Everyone fully tuned in for his presentation Word of Mouth – Your Ultimate Distribution Channel.  We all wanted to know, “How do I get people to hear my message? How do I get people to care about that message? And how do I get them to spread that message?”

Engagement Group Director – What the Heck Is That?

Spike Jones is the Engagement Group Director for a strategic communications firm, WCG. Sound like a confusing occupation? I thought so too.

But it’s actually pretty simple. Through social media and content creation, Jones comes up with ways to get people to listen to and spread messages from or about brands.

He is the first tier of a pyramid of information he hopes will spread to the masses. He does this through a few simple rules of engagement.

Full Circle Engagement Must Include Word of Mouth Distribution

Jones told us that every day, brands are mentioned 3.3 billion times — but 3.1 billion of those mentions are not on social media. Believe it or not, people still talk to each other.

So in order to get the largest number of people to talk about you — you need them to tell their friends, online and off.

Companies need brand advocates to spread their message. While this has always been true, it has never been more true. With the abundance of information and choices available to us, most consumers rely heavily on reviews, references, and referrals from their friends.

We trust our friends. We don’t always trust brands.

So companies need to cultivate a team of brand ambassadors if they want fans to preach their praises. And what is the best way to build a team of brand ambassadors? Engage with and become friends with them.

Awareness Alone Won’t Make People Engaged

I know the names and taglines of probably hundreds of brands. I’m aware of their message. I may even be one of their customers. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I really care about what they are saying.

Brands talk to us all of the time. Facebook updates, tweets, pinned images of things we wish we could own — the messages that brands send to us are constant.

Brands are really good at making us aware that they exist. They are like picketing religious advocates who set up shop in front of a concert entrance and shout at us to grab our attention. But just as we walk past the shouting street preacher and throw the pamphlets on the floor, we ignore most of messages from a brand’s megaphone.

We really don’t care… unless we have a reason to.

It’s Passion That Makes People Engaged

People don’t care about products and brands. They care about how products shape their lives, and they care about what brand choices say about them.

“It is not, nor will it ever be, about your product. It has to be about passion,” Jones explains. To get people to engage with your brand you can’t shove the what (the product) in their face. You have to lead them in with the why (the passion).

To create an engaged consumer, you have to connect a person to their passion through a brand or product. The most obvious example of this (and the most used example) is Apple. Apple doesn’t sell computers and devices. They sell a sleek, modern, clean lifestyle.

But Jones gave a less glamorous example at Social Fresh.



Yes, scissors, Fiskar Scissors. Absolutely one of the least glamorous products on the market, scissors don’t necessary ring “passion product” right away.

But Jones and his team found the opposite to be true. There is a group of people that love scissors, a group that is crazy passionate about scissors… crafters.

Jones created Fiskateers to connect to the crafting passion. Fiskateers is an online community (for registered users only) where members can trade crafting and scrapbooking tips and projects through message boards, galleries, blog posts, and even scheduled events.

Jones and his team (at Brains on Fire) found the passion connected to their product and the people followed. They made friends, not by getting consumers to click a ‘like’ button, but by connecting their product to passion.

A Million Followers or Fans or Friends Doesn’t Equal Engagement

I couldn’t find the number of Fiskar community members, but I can say that if there are only 100 members, it’s probably better than the 30,000 Facebook fans a brand bought or attracted through a flashy sweepstakes.

If you think differently, you may be thinking like the sidewalk-standing picketer from earlier in this post. You think that shouting at the largest audience possible will create results.

And while sure, approaching a larger number of uninterested audience members may increase your chances of getting someone to listen, it’s much more impactful to approach a smaller audience who is already interested in what you are saying.

Fiskar knows that. They know that having a small, engaged group of brand advocates is far better than having a giant audience of fans who have removed your updates from their newsfeed.

Big numbers may look like a simple measure of success, but when it comes to social metrics, don’t let those thumbs ups mislead you. They don’t mean what you think. A smaller engaged audience is far better than a larger, disconnected audience.

To Encourage Engagement, Call Out the Ego

Engagement isn’t just about getting a group of interested people involved in a conversation with you. It’s also about getting that group of people involved in a conversation about you.

To get people to talk about you and your message, you must give them messages that they will spread and share. Jones thinks there is one major influence over people’s online sharing habits… the ego.

When it comes to sharing information on our social profiles, what are we really doing? Showing off.

We are feeding our egos. We are showing the world that we are somewhere cool, with interesting people, doing awesome things. So if you want your audience to share something about your brand online, make sure you tap into their ego. Let them show off.

Give them messages that connect to a personal part of their life. Share an image that looks like them (not literally of course). Give them a story they can relate to. Deliver them something they will be proud to say, “I think so too.”

Spike Jones is in the business of getting people to listen. And I heard him.

Get people to talk about you by making them aware of how their passion is connected to your product or brand then give them a message they can relate to.  Spread the word.

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