In “Contagious: Why Things Catch On”, Jonah Berger reviews the social influence literature to explain why some communications go viral and uses lots of great examples, such as the Blendtec “Will It blend?” videos that went wildly viral. (See Youtube if you haven’t seen any of them before.). Here are some of the reasons:
- Social Currency. When things that we have or do make us look good, we love to share them. Knowing about cool things (e.g., early adoption of iPhones and other innovations, fashions, etc.) makes people seem sharp and in the know, so we craft messages to achieve such impressions.
- Triggers. When things are “top of mind”, we are more likely to share them with others. To remind encourage people to talk about our products, link your product/service/idea to prevalent cues in the environment. (e.g., (peanut butter reminds us of jelly; dog reminds us of cat; Linking Kit Kat to coffee, created an alliteration and food connection, boosting sales.)
- Emotion. When we care about things, we share. It’s aroused feelings, not the facts that generate Bzzzz. For instance, things that surprise us (like blending an iPhone) or scare us (e.g., potential tax hike), they are likely to spur sharing.
- Public. As the old adage says: Money see, monkey do”. If we see people doing something, it makes it more acceptable for us to do so, and generates sharing and imitation. If companies we admire are clients of vendors we’re considering, we’re more likely to use them and tell people about the experiences. When emails add at the bottom “Sent using BlackBerry” and “Sent from my iPhone”, they’re using this principle.
- Practical Value. People like to help others, so when we have news that others can use – how to improve health, make money, save time, etc. – we want to share it. It also explains why some discount offers use “% off” versus “$s off”: the one which provides the greatest perceived value is more likely to generate sales. (If a price is less than $100, the % discount looks bigger; above $100, the absolute amount matters more!)
- Stories. When information is embedded in a story, information passes under the guise of idle chatter. By making a lesson or moral integral to the narrative, you get people share it. (In “the three pigs” the moral we learn is that it pays to take the time to do something right:
The lessons are clear, depending on the context surrounding the fact or items, we should tap the power of one of these STEPPS, in order to harness the power of contagion. Which of the techniques have you used most often? How can use you another one of the others to make your product/service/idea contagious?