Contagious by Jonah Berger
“Virality Isn’t Born – It’s Made”
A couple of years back – ok it was 15 years ago, I’m old – 15 years back, Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called The Tipping Point about how there are people in our lives that guide opinion. Even now, companies spend tons of cash trying to find and influence these opinion leaders and rally them to their cause, usually to sell us something.
The author, Professor Berger, who teaches at the Wharton School Business at UPenn, is an expert on viral marketing and trends. I suppose it is about time for someone to come out with the next evolution of the tipping point. One could argue it’s even a little late. Here it is.
The Six Principles
Most of the time, making friends and influencing others doesn’t make them any better at making things go viral. OK, so what does? There are six principles. Wouldn’t you know it? He’s taking his own advice. Along with the many lists you can read online and hopefully share with friends, Contagious follows has six easy to remember principles, and it even makes a catchy acronym: STEPPS
- Social Currency
- Practical value
Social Currency: The message needs to have a coolness factor. If you will seem cool to your tribe, you will share it.
Triggers: Associations keep it in top of mind. If people think of peanut-butter 50 times a day then you can probably use that to sell jelly. That way Jelly advertises itself.
Emotion: We share when we care. Positive emotions are better, but negative works if it kindles a fire (not a reference to Amazon, really).
Public: Is it easy to see and reproduce. Think of the ice bucket challenge.
Practical Value: The information in your content has to be useful. For example, it could save you money – 50% off, or improve your health – lose 20 pounds of fat in 30 days.
Stories: There’s a reason we are convinced by anecdotes, they’re stories. But they have to be stories that illustrate the point.
I’m not a marketer. I don’t see the benefits of viral marketing. What I mean by that is that I’m not exposed to it. I get the concept. One supposes that there’s money to be made somewhere. Certainly, we can’t be spending all of this time and effort to get eyeballs just for wuffie. So to me, this book was a series of revelations.
So what is Contagious, then? As Berger describes it himself, it is an accessible book, a reference based on genuine rigorous research for understanding what makes things viral. Rigorous, but without jargon, not dry. His chapters are full of interesting stories, anecdotes, that evoke emotion, have real practical value… ok, you can see where I’m going with this.
Good read, I recommend it, pass it on.