Warning: Contagious!

Watch out! Don’t get too close! This is CONTAGIOUS! Is this about a disease or germs or anything like that? No! Not at all! It’s about ideas and products and a great book that describes why some things become very popular and others die before anyone notices.

Jonah Berger explains in his book Contagious that there are 6 STEPPS that make things popular or go viral on the internet. See how you can use them for your messages.

1: Social Currency – Make your audience look smart

Create your messages in a way that lifts up the person you shares it. People want be make good impressions, so give them something smart to talk about. Instead of just announcing that a company has sales coming up it could wrap that message in a story. Maybe the company needs room in the store for an upcoming party or other social event. You can also combine the message with a joke. Maybe the company needs to do the sale to make room for a pool in which the hot prizes can cool off.

2: Triggers – Top of mind leads to tip of tongue

People associate certain words with others. “Easter” makes you think of eggs or “dogs” make you think of food. If you can connect your message with a trigger (meaning a mental bridge), your audience will think of you, when they are in touch with the trigger. It’s just like thinking of apples and smart phones.

3. Emotion – When we care, we share

Naturally contagious content usually evokes some sort of emotion. Some emotions increase sharing, while others actually decrease it. So we need to pick the right emotions to evoke. We need to kindle the fire. Sometimes even negative emotions may be useful.

Social engagement of companies often applies to emotions. For example, think of all the smiling faces when a company donates toys to a preschool.

4. Public – Everybody does it

Instead of using paper towels, we use Kleenex; Instead of searching on the internet, we google. The more public  a product or service is, the more it becomes a no-brainer. Therefore it is important to have references and referrals. But it also shows the influence of brand labels.

5. Practical Value – What is it good for?

People like to help others, so if we can show them how our products or ideas will save time, improve health, or save money, they’ll spread the word. What makes something look like a good deal? Highlight the incredible value of your offer and make it easy to understand so that people can share your message.

6. Stories – Tell me about it

People don’t just share information, they tell stories. But it takes more than just tellinf a great story. Your message must be an indispensible part of that story, so that the story can’t be told without your message. Personally I like it, when companies share their story from the humble beginnings to what they are now. It normally reveals a lot about the values of a company.

I hope that little summary is helpful for you to get your point across. Talking and sharing are some of our most fundamental behaviors. These actions connect us, shape us, and make us human.


”Everybody’s got a different way of telling a story – and has different stories to tell.”

Keith Richards

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