How to Increase Social Sharing

I’ve been writing a series on viral marketing at Web Host Mogul. Part of the inspiration for the series was Jonah Berger’s book Contagious: Why Things Catch On. I read a negative review of the book that basically provided the information below (not quite as much detail, but it was a similar outline). The reviewer’s chief complaint was that “[t]here is just not that much information in this book far beyond common sense most people already intuitively know.” I disagree.

Notes from Contagious: Why Things Catch On

Berger has done a lot of interesting research to show that the following principles are effective. Anyone in marketing could benefit from the examples, evidence, and conclusions of this book. I’m posting my notes here because I haven’t done much else with this website lately so why not?

Social Currency

A marketing effort offers social currency if it makes the sharer look good by sharing it. It might make them look funny, interesting, wealthy, healthy.

Berger writes about three ways to create social currency:

Find Inner Remarkability

This involves finding (or creating) something about your brand that is striking or noteworthy.

Leverage Game Mechanics

This requires the gamification of some aspect of your brand.

Make People Feel Like Insiders

Require membership or offer something by invitation-only, for example.


A trigger is a cue that will make the reader/viewer remember your product later. You can use triggers to “grow the habitat” by utilizing cues that will remind consumers of your product at a time/place/situation/etc. that they might not usually use it.
Triggers should be built on cues that will remind the reader/viewer of your product as close to the point of conversion as possible.


If your content evokes an emotional response that arouses the reader/viewer, he’ll be more likely to take action. Psychologists call this high arousal state is called activation. Certain positive and negative emotions (not all of them) are high arousal and will lead to activation. This increase the likelihood that the reader/viewer to take action:

Positive Emotions

  1. Awe
  2. Excitement
  3. Amusement

Negative Emotions

  1. Anger
  2. Anxiety

Contentment and sadness are low arousal emotions and should be avoided.


A product or service is public when it advertises itself (e.g., the Nike “Swoosh,” apps that update your Facebook status). This is beneficial because people are more likely to use a product if they see someone else using it. Brands can create “behavioral residue” by giving or selling something that will remain with the consumer for some amount of time after he makes his purchase.

Practical Value

Content offers practical value when it is useful. Readers/viewers are more likely to share content that offers practical value because it satisfies a psychological desire to help others.


Embedding your content into a story will increase sharing. Find a story that contains a trigger, evokes high arousal emotions, offers practical value, and/or provides social currency. Be sure that your product, service, or brand is an integral part of the story or it may get left out.

(Affiliate links in bold.) 

The Conservative Canon: A Conflict of Visions by Thomas Sowell

Debates between conservatives and liberals often seem like games of chicken where each car is going full speed but, when they get to the point where their cars should crash together, they zip right by each other. They weren’t even in the same lane and they never noticed. Like two muscle cars passing in the night.

Thomas Sowell’s book, A Conflict of Visions, is designed to help avoid situations like that. The Left and Right are coming from very different places. Frequently we find two or more reasonable, well meaning people that simply can’t come to an agreement on political issues. Sowell determines that the confusion results from two very different views of human nature.

He calls these two views the unconstrained and constrained visions. The constrained view (usually held by conservatives) is that man is imperfect and there’s nothing that can be done about that. Things will never be perfect and we must rely on trade offs to create the best world possible. The unconstrained view (usually held by liberals) is more utopian. Someone who subscribes to the unconstrained view believes man is perfectible. The Zeitgeist and Occupy Movements exemplify this view. Futurist Jacque Fresco and his Venus Project is another example.

Rarely do you ever see anyone defending their vision or attacking the other. In fact, most people don’t realize they’re operating under one assumption or the other. They argue about secondary, or even tertiary issues of tangential importance, when what they should be doing is getting right to the root of the matter. Is total human equality possible? If it is possible, is it desirable? Can it be brought about in a way that respects civil liberties and human rights?

As for the practicality of total equality, Steven Pinker, in his book The Blank Slate, argues that man is not a blank slate and that human nature is more in line with the constrained view. He writes:

We are all members of the same flawed species. Putting our moral vision into practice means imposing our will on others. The human lust for power and esteem, coupled with its vulnerability to self-deception and self-righteousness, makes that an invitation to a calamity, all the worse when the power is directed at a goal as quixotic as eradicating human self-interest.

Sowell addresses the desirability of total equality in Conflict:

Clearly, only very unequal intellectual and moral standing could justify having equality imposed, whether the people want it or not, as Dworkin suggests, and only very unequal power would make it possible.

Despite Sowell’s personal politics, A Conflict of Visions is a non-partisan affair. He extensively and objectively explains each view, quoting great thinkers on both sides and leaving the reader to make up his own mind. The ideas in this will lead to more fruitful discussions between people of every political persuasion and every view of human nature (Sowell allows for mixed views that contain elements of both visions). Regardless of which side you come down on, it’s important to realize where you land. If we’re going to play chicken with our ideas, let’s make sure we meet head on instead of just joyriding through the night.

A Tax Reform Walkthrough: How to Solve South Carolina’s Road Problem

First published on the Greenville Post.

South Carolina state legislators are having trouble figuring out how to repair South Carolina’s roads. It’s a multi-billion dollar problem. Nationally, Republicans seem to understand that the country can’t just tax and spend its way out of every problem. For some reason they’re confused when it comes to state-level tax policy. Democrats (who are generally confused at every level) aren’t any help either. If the South Carolina legislature is serious about raising revenue they’ll need to take drastic measures.

When my little brother can’t figure out how to beat a video game, he gets on the internet and looks for a walkthrough. These guides help young gamers when, instead of slaying dragons, the dragons are slaying them. For example, if you can’t escape from the Dark Forest, a walkthrough will help you find the Sword of Destiny so that you can fight your way through an orc horde and continue your quest to save the elven princess.

The state legislature is handling this infrastructure issue about as well as a video game player with his TV turned off. Representative Tommy Stringer, by suggesting we raise the gas tax, has become the Leroy Jenkins of the SC State House.  Senator Nikki Setzler says we should take out a loan, which I guess makes him that kid who somehow gets access to his big brother’s Call of Duty account and ruins his kill/death ratio.

If you don’t know what any of these video game references mean, you’re as clueless about video games as South Carolina lawmakers are about tax policy. The difference is that, while video games have no effect on the real world (until they bring back Nick Arcade), tax policy plays a very important role in our economy. So, as a friendly taxpayer, I’ve prepared an easy-to-read, step-by-step tutorial on how to address the problem. (The tax problem, that is. If you’re wondering about Call of Duty, you’ll have to Google it.)

Road Repair Walkthrough

Step 1: Shut down costly, unnecessary projects.

The state legislature is wasting the money it already has. Stop building new roads that SC doesn’t need or want and start repairing and maintaining the roads we’ve already got. Lawmakers need to prioritize spending. Before we build a bridge to nowhere, we need to fixes the bridges we’ve already got.

Step 2: Eliminate or reform the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank.

The STIB takes money from the taxpayers and won’t give it back unless they offer up even more money in matching funds. Some of the areas most in need of road repair don’t have enough money to put forth the local match necessary to receive funding from the STIB. Instead of sending money where it is needed, the STIB seems to specialize in expensive projects that offer little value to taxpayers.

Step 3: Eliminate state sales tax exemptions.

Removing state sales tax exemptions would bring in at least $1 billion a year in revenue. That alone would be enough to solve all our infrastructure problems. And for anyone who’s worried that might lead to a mass exodus of business owners:

Step 4: Reduce or eliminate the state corporate income tax.

Create new revenue by luring new businesses into the state. Instead of using tax breaks as a bargaining chip to pick winners and losers, the legislature should make things easier for all job creators. More jobs lead to more income which leads to more revenue (whether collected through personal income taxes or sales taxes).

Step 5: Reduce or eliminate the state personal income tax.

Create new revenue by encouraging people to move to South Carolina and increase existing revenue by removing a disincentive to working.

Step 6 (Optional): Index the Gas Tax for Inflation

Consumption-based taxes are generally a good thing. They ensure that people are paying for what they use (and that people who aren’t using something don’t pay for it). Out-of-state tourists and truckers who drive through South Carolina and use our roads should have to pay for the privilege. But state lawmakers shouldn’t add to the burden of the already overtaxed citizens of South Carolina.

A gas tax that tracks inflation is a good idea in theory, but until the legislature reduces the burden on South Carolina taxpayers no one should be talking about raising any tax rates.


So there you have it. An understandable user’s guide to the South Carolina state economy. If South Carolina legislators get smart, they can raise revenue, relieve SC taxpayers, and repair our roads.

The Conservative Canon: Why You’re Right

In epistemology, most philosophers say that you know something when you have a justified true belief about it. In other words, you’ve got a belief, that belief is true, and you have justification for believing it. This isn’t an airtight description of knowledge, but it’s a good working definition. So, if you believe there’s a quarter in your pocket because you remember putting it there before you left for work in the morning, you have a justified true belief that there is a quarter in your pocket. You know that there’s a quarter in your pocket. (That’s assuming there actually is a quarter in your pocket, of course.)

If, on the other hand, you believe you have a quarter in your pocket because you dreamed that a fairy put one there, you don’t have a justified true belief.

Conservative beliefs are just common sense. They’re intuitively true. Unfortunately, in today’s world of confused morals, misleading statistics, and statist demagogues, common sense isn’t so common anymore. Whatever you might think of Bill O’Reilly, there’s a culture war taking place in America. Conservatives must arm themselves with the intellectual tools to win the battles that will inevitably arise in the public forum.

To that end, I’m compiling a list of books that will help conservatives justify their true beliefs. I’m calling it the Conservative Canon. Right now it’s just a short list with eight books. I’ll be adding books to the list and I’ll be adding short reviews to explain why they’re included. Let me know what you think.

Organize for Conservatism: Fight Data With Data

First published on FITSNews.

Organizing for Action (formerly Organizing for America, President Obama’s reelection campaign) is raising a lot money and using it to target GOP legislators across the nation. The group will be using its technological proficiency and extensive grassroots network to promote legislation designed to move our nation further to the left. Due to its 501(c)4 non-profit tax status, the group must remain non-partisan, but it has plenty of leeway to pressure politicians to support bills that will promote President Obama’s legislative agenda.

The Problem

According to the LA Times, OFA is running ads to encourage 13 Republican legislators to support universal background checks for gun sales.  Future plans include pressuring lawmakers to support an assault weapons ban and limits on high-capacity magazines.

Clearly, the OFA’s objectives run counter to those of conservative Americans. And once Organizing for Action is done raising millions of dollars by selling access to the president, OFA will have plenty of money to pursue other, more progressive, legislative goals.

That’s troubling enough. What’s worse is that technologically speaking, Democrats are working with precision lasers while Republicans are throwing rocks. To see what we’re up against, watch Harper Reed, former Chief Technology Officer for Organizing for America, talk about the technological innovations behind President Obama’s data-driven campaign (skip to 58:25) or read this article about Reed and “the power of data.”

Reed describes a campaign with a comprehensive understanding of technology and a deep appreciation for the importance of data. What was already a technologically advanced campaign in 2008 became even more sophisticated in 2012. They consolidated their databases and dramatically increased the size of their analytics department.

That’s why not only was the Obama campaign better at collecting data, it was better at analyzing it. They knew who would donate, how they would donate (online, by mail, etc.), they knew who would volunteer, and they were able to predict turnout. They used that data to target individual voters who would spread their message cheaper and more effectively than a marketing team. And they raised $1 billion. And they won the election.

The Solution(s)

The Voices of America, a non-partisan, pro-Constitution group is making an effort to educate and empower voters. The group promotes non-partisan advocacy for conservative principles like limited government and free markets. They offer tools, talking points, and other resources at no charge to help pro-Constitution mobilize voters.

“Never before has the executive had its own advocacy army,” said VOA co-founder Peter Wolf said of OFA. “We’ve seen similar developments with Socialists from 1920 to 1940 in Europe with dire consequences.” The conservative movement must develop its own grassroots army. VOA wants to help.

Conservatives are playing catch up. Republican technology is outdated and they have ignored the importance of grassroots organization. but VOA is trying to change that by reverse engineering the Democrats’ success. They have published a newsletter detailing the organization efforts of progressives and provide information on their website to help activists gather data. There are plenty of tools for conservative activists looking to create a robust data file for grassroots organizing.

The South Carolina based Constituent Cloud has an advanced targeting system that factors campaign contributions (among other things) into its voter rankings. “I think most will agree that the GOP learned a hard lesson on the importance of technology and data in 2012,” said Constituent Cloud’s Justin Rockwell. “A broad shotgun approach to building support and volunteers is less likely to work than a well target or even micro-targeted grassroots campaign.”

Rockwell says that they key for the GOP is to determine its strongest supporters within each community so that GOP officials can reach out to these supporters when necessary. Products like Constituent Cloud and NationBuilder allow organizations to build up a grassroots network that can be utilized when the organization needs to spread information. “The next step, which is the most important, is to grow that database as quickly as possible with new, strong and likely supporters of a conservative movement,” Rockwell said. “Each new record that is added should have an extensive history.”

For the activist on a budget, NationBuilder provides cheap access to voter data. It isn’t advanced enough or current enough for a sophisticated campaign, but it’s a good place to start. That’s especially true for grassroots activists who may not be able to shell out thousands of dollars for mailing lists, voting records, and donor files. The objective is the same. Activists must build up their databases by gathering as much information as they can. That means you’ve got to hit the bricks. Voices of America provides detailed instructions.

But That’s Not All

Stuart Stevens, one of Romney’s advisors, says technology won’t solve all of the GOP’s problems. He’s right. Mobilizing supporters is only half the battle. Conservatives must improve their messaging efforts. Voices of America suggests a broad, non-Partisan message based on “principles of limited government, free markets, and individual liberties has broad appeal and is sustainable for the long term.”  Or, as US Senator Ted Cruz puts it, Republicans should promote the idea of “opportunity conservatism.” Cruz said “Americans want to stand on their own feet, and Republicans need to champion policies that enable us to do so: ownership, choice and individual responsibility.”

Improved messaging is crucial, but our ability to spread that message effectively and efficiently is just as important. That will require a strong grassroots network, a robust data file, and a sophisticated technological strategy.

Ben Shapiro Needs to Step It Up

Ben Shapiro and Piers Morgan

I read that conservative commentator and writer Ben Shapiro has been added to the agenda for the California Republican Party’s spring convention. The article notes that Shapiro has been praised for this interview with Piers Morgan. I hadn’t seen it because, after watching Larry Pratt wipe the floor with Morgan a couple of times, I was tired of listening to that British jerk.

So it’s about a month old, but when I saw Shapiro receiving accolades for his journey into the abyss, I decided I’d check it out. While Shapiro does a much better job than Alex Jones (and I agree 100% with the California GOP’s decision to add him to the agenda), his interview with Morgan leaves something to be desired.

First, Shapiro says “assault rifles” when he means “assault weapons” numerous times. It’s bad enough that we find ourselves using the nebulous and negatively charged “assault weapons” in the first place. Don’t fall into the trap of calling them assault rifles (which they are not). He might have just misspoken, but that’s a mistake gun rights advocates need to stop making. The only substantial difference between an “assault weapon” and a handgun that Morgan would find acceptable is the high capacity magazine. If that’s the argument we’re going to have, let’s have it. Gun control proponents need to say what they mean, not what they think will scare the American people into doing their will.

Second, Shapiro acts as though the only legitimate purpose of so-called “assault weapons” is to protect against government tyranny. While I agree that that is a very important Second Amendment consideration and a legitimate purpose of owning an assault weapon, Shapiro should not have neglected to mention self defense. He should watch this video by TokenLibertarianGirl: “Why Does Anyone Need an Assault Rifle?” She lists plenty of good reasons for owning assault weapons.

Gun rights advocates need all the support they can get and Shapiro did better than most. He’s a very smart guy and conservatives are lucky to have him. And don’t forget, he’s only 28 years old. He did a good job overall and I was especially happy to see someone call Morgan out for being a bully, but when it comes to schooling Piers Morgan no one does it better than Gun Owners of America’s Larry Pratt: Round 1 / Round 2.

Some Polling Places Have Changed

Some polling places have changed for the primary this Tuesday. Voters whose polling place is usually a school will be affected. The changes are:

• Voters in the Ebenezer Precinct will vote at North Greenville Fire Station # 2, not at Heritage Elementary School.

• Voters in the Mountain View Precinct will vote at Locust Hill Baptist Church, not at Mountain View Elementary School.

• Voters in the Slater Marietta Precinct will vote at the Slater Marietta Fire Station, not at Slater Marietta Elementary School.

• Voters in the Sulphur Springs Precinct who are in District 17 will vote at Mt. Sinai Baptist Church, not at Armstrong Elementary School.

• Voters in the Tigerville Precinct will vote at the Tigerville Fire Station, not at Tigerville Elementary School.

• Voters in the Sandy Flat Precinct will vote at Enoree Baptist Church, not at Faith Temple Church due to construction.

• Voters in the Altamont Forest Precinct who are in District 17 will vote at Enoree Baptist Church, not at Duncan Chapel Fire Station.

For more information:


I got an email from Conway Belangia, Director of Elections, today. Basically, if your normal polling place is in a school, it will be moved for this election cycle. If your polling place has changed for this election cycle you’ll get a letter about it. If you have any questions, give me a call at (864) 414-4314 and I’ll get some answers for you. Or call Mr. Belangia at 467-7255.

Here’s the email:

Changes in polling places for the Special Primary for House District 17 are being made mostly in consideration for the security needed for the schools which are in session on the day of this primary (and run off, if necessary), and special general election.

All registered voters in the affected areas will be notified in writing of their change of location for this special primary, run off, and general election for SC House of Representatives District 17. Posters of the changes will be placed at each affected polling place on election day, but, all registered voters should be notified by the mailing to be done within three to seven days of the first primary telling each voter where voting will take place for THIS ELECTION CYCLE only.

See listing below:

Polling places for the Republican Primary for House District 17 – January 22, 2013


Altamont Forest Duncan Chapel Fire Station 5111 Old Buncombe Rd Greenville, SC


Altamont Forest @ Tubbs Mountain Enoree Baptist Church 881 Tigerville Rd – Youth Center Travelers Rest, SC



Clear Creek Pleasant View Baptist Church 110 Old Rutherford Rd Taylors, SC



Darby Ridge St Andrews Presbyterian Church 1860 Reid School Rd Taylors, SC



Ebenezer Heritage Elementary School 1592 Geer Hwy Travelers Rest, SC


North Greenville Fire Station #2 596 Hodgens Rd Travelers Rest, SC



Furman Mt Sinai Baptist Church 1101 Roe Ford Rd Greenville, SC



Jennings Mill Cleveland First Baptist Church 5 Church Dr Cleveland, SC



Maridell New Liberty Baptist Church 1798 N Hwy 25 Travelers Rest, SC



Mountain View Mountain View Elementary School 6350 Mountain View Rd Taylors, SC


Locust Hill Baptist Church 5534 Locust Hill Rd Travelers Rest, SC



Sandy Flat Faith Temple Church 5080 Sandy Flat Rd Taylors, SC


Sandy Flat @ Tubbs Mountain Enoree Baptist Church 881 Tigerville Rd – Youth Center Travelers Rest, SC



Slater Marietta Slater Marietta Elementary School 100 Baker Cr Marietta, SC


Slater Marietta Fire Station 3001 Geer Hwy Marietta, SC



Sulphur Springs Armstrong Elementary School 8601 White Horse Rd Greenville, SC


Sulphur Springs @ Furman Mt Sinai Baptist Church 1101 Roe Ford Rd Greenville, SC



Tigerville Tigerville Elementary School 25 Tigerville Elementary School Rd Taylors, SC


Tigerville Fire Station 2605 Highway 414 Taylors, SC



Tubbs Mountain Enoree Baptist Church 881 Tigerville Rd – Youth Center Travelers Rest, SC



Travelers Rest 1 Travelers Rest City Hall 6711 State Park Rd Travelers Rest, SC



Travelers Rest 2 Renfrew Baptist Church 951 Geer Hwy Travelers Rest, SC


Roy Harmon receives endorsement in House 17 Special Election

via Palmetto Liberty:

TRAVELERS REST, SC – Today, Talbert Black Jr., founder of Palmetto Liberty, announced the group’s endorsement of Roy Harmon for State House District 17.

“South Carolina is in serious need of legislators committed to fighting the status quo of overspending, overtaxing, and overregulating,” said Black. “In the race for the 17th District, there is no candidate more committed to limiting government to its core functions than Roy Harmon. If he is elected, the people of northern Greenville can trust Roy to aggressively promote their conservative values in the State House.”

“I am very proud to have Palmetto Liberty’s endorsement,” Harmon said. “It’s an honor to know that they trust me to take conservative reform to Columbia. Voters should know this is a goal I will work tirelessly to reach.”

Harmon added, “I have run a campaign not based on vague promises, but on specific ideas. While I might not have the backing of establishment figures, my pro-life, pro-gun, pro-growth message has resonated with the residents of the 17th District, and I would be honored to have their support.”

Palmetto Liberty was formed to support true conservatives to challenge the establishment. The group seeks to hold South Carolina’s elected officials accountable for their votes. Score cards grading legislators’ voting records can be found at

Roy Harmon is a Greenville native and graduate of Travelers Rest High School. He worked for Congressman Trey Gowdy’s 2010 campaign and for the South Carolina Policy Council’s investigative news project. This is his first time seeking elected office.

The Republican Primary for House District 17 will be held on January 22nd.