How To Go Viral : A Book Review of “Contagious”

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There are books that you read and forget about, and there are books that you read and feel like you level up from. Personally, I’m not a big fan of books that don’t give you actionable steps that you can implement. What’s the point of investing all that time into reading a book when you can only remember one or two things that you can’t even use?

I recently finished a book called Contagious by Jonah Berger. This book is a MUST READ for anyone who is interested in business, marketing or psychology. Through extensive experimentation and research, Berger highlights that they’ve been able to create a formula for why things go viral. Insane, right? I always thought that virality was something that happened for the blessed, but boy was I wrong. Tapping into people’s behavioral patterns, psychology and a bunch of other complicated stuff, the STEPPS system was created.

Before I go into the STEPPS system and how it works, a good point to address is why you would want to make something go viral in the first place. Whether it’s a blog post or an Instagram picture, having a piece of your content go viral is one of the most efficient ways of free marketing. The definition of something going viral is “quickly and widely spread or popularized especially by person-to-person electronic communication” (Merriam-Webster). Having content go viral can increase your social reach anywhere between 5X-100X! When you have viral content, you gain exposure from a market that you previously didn’t have access to. Virality is by far the quickest and most effective way to increase brand awareness.

The STEPPS system can be used to judge how likely a piece of content will go viral; despite what kind of content it is. This isn’t a guarantee, but if you follow these STEPPS, and implement as many as you can, you’ll greatly increase your chances.

Social Currency: People like to share things that make them look good to others. The psychology behind this is a concept called the “Inner Remark Ability”. What this means is that people find satisfaction in things that make them feel like insiders. For example, adding a points system to your business will increase the chances of your customers doing repeated business with you. There’s this inner satisfaction that people get when you give them a certain rank for their efforts, especially when they can compare it to others. Feed peoples need for social standing, and watch them do wonders for you.

Triggers: Connect your content to certain phrases, terms or even colors that trigger a reaction in your audience. As example of this is with the Apple. As soon as people see a white apple, they associate it with the Apple brand. This instantly puts the brand in our head, regardless of the situation we’re in when we see that trigger. Triggers are especially important when thinking about branding. When developing your brands identity, you want to be able to be identified through something in specific, whether it be a logo or a catch phrase. Always remember, top of the mind means tip of the tongue.

Emotion: Being able to make people feel a certain way is one of the most powerful forms of influence that you could use. The trick with emotion is, you have to make sure you’re instilling the right ones into your audience. For example, people are a lot less likely to share content that makes them feel guilty or sad. On the other hand, people are a lot more likely to share content that makes them feel emotions like joy or anger. The most powerful emotion you can instill in person is the feeling of awe. When people are in awe, they feel the urge to let as many people know.

Public: “Built to show, built to grow”. The more identifiable your content or product is, the more likely word will get out about it. For example, red bottom shoes. Some may say they’re quality, others would say they’re overrated and uncomfortable. Regardless of what you think, red bottom shoes are seen as a form of status. You want to have something that stands out and is unique. If you offer the same thing as everyone else, then why would people choose you? Find something that’ll differentiate you in public, and let everyone know what it is.

Practical Value: This is by far my favorite step. What it means is GIVE PEOPLE SOMETHING VALUABLE! The more value you’re able to provide in someone’s life, the more likely they are to be willing to buy your product, or share your content with their friends. Does sharing your product or content help people help others? If not, then try and fix it. Always keep in mind, the likeliness that people will be willing to help you is in proportion to the amount of value they feel you’ve given them.

Stories: People love a good story. Having an impactful company or brand story is invaluable. Why should people follow you? Why should they feel a connection towards you? What do you plan to accomplish with your company or brand? These are all questions that should be answered with your company’s story. When people resonate with your story, they feel a level of intimacy that makes them more inclined to want to share it.

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