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?
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:
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.
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.)