Why do some YouTube videos go viral? What makes people share your stories? Why are some products talked about more than others?
Creating something that goes viral cannot be guaranteed but as Jonah Berger points out, you can definitely improve your chances with the methodology he lays out in his book, Contagious – Why Things Catch On.
Jonah and his team spent a decade doing research to try to understand why people share word of mouth. With the 6 principles they discovered, you can make it more likely for your own article, video or any other content to be contagious. Do you need all them to work? No, you don’t. But the more the better.
These 6 principles are called the STEPPS framework. By using these framework you will make people to talk and share about you.
- Social currency – People share things that make them look good: Can they look good (smart, rich, wise, helpful, kind, insiders…) when they share your message?
- Triggers – Top of mind, tip of tongue: Does your message relate to something familiar, or frequent situation for them?
- Emotion – When we care we share: Will your message evoke a visceral reaction, so we can deepen our bond with those with whom we share it?
- Public – Built to show, built to grow: When we can see other people doing something, we’re more likely to imitate it. How many people see your product or service?
- Practical Value – News you can use: Will sharing your message enable us to give specific, perhaps also timely help that they will appreciate us more for sharing it?
- Stories – Information that people want to tell which carries your idea: Like a Trojan horse, can your story get others to open the “gate” of their mind to hear it, share it, buy it or take another action to spread it?
Social Currency (people share things that make them look good)
How it works: Just like the cars people drive and the clothes people wear, what people know and say affects how others see them. So people talk about things that make them look smart.
People want to be different and a little bit further ahead of others. Anything that makes people look good or clever. Status is better when other people know that you have it.
Example: LinkedIn sent their users an email that informed them they were one of the top profiles on their network. When people received this email, not only did they feel special, they shared this information with others.
How to apply in life: One of the greatest ways to employ social currency is to make people feel like insiders. You need to make them feel like they are part of a special club or have some sort of status that nobody else has. Not only is it good for them, it’s good for the brand too.
If you have a special event you can give couple of extra passes & invites. You make people feel a little special but you also make them to do the marketing for you.
Another idea that I am really fond of is applicable to restaurant businesses. Create a secret menu that only a handful of people would know. It will make people share with their friends because they will look cool. To get these hidden items, it would feel like you know, a special sort of code, like you’re a spy in the cafe place.
Triggers (top of mind, tip of tongue)
How it works: We talk about what’s on our mind. That means that we can design products, ideas, or messages in such a way that they more frequently come to mind, and thus are more likely to be talked about and shared. The more something is triggered, the more top of mind it will be, and the more talked about and shared it will become.
Example: Rebecca Black‘s song, “Friday,” is the perfect example. The song was one of the most viral videos of 2011. It had over 300 million views, yet everyone hated it.
When you and look into the data of the number of searches for the phrase “Rebecca Black” on YouTube, the spikes aren’t random, they are every 7 days. Actually every Friday. Which is the same name as the song. So although the song is bad, no matter what day of the week, Friday provides a ready reminder. This is what psychologists call a trigger.
How to apply in life: For you to understand what the triggers are for your industry, you need to consider the context. Look at who your customers are and what their environments are.
Think of a frequent trigger. The idea of a trigger can include sight, sound, smell or anything in our environment that will activate something else in our mind.
Researchers found that if you play french music in a grocery store then people buy french wine. German music people buy german wine. Tie your product to familiar and frequent situations.
Emotion (when we care we share)
How it works: “High arousal” negative emotions like anger or anxiety provoke us to share messages with others. We want to know that we’re not alone. So do high arousal positive emotions: excitement, amusement or humor.
Example: Susan Boyle‘s unexpected singing performance evoked awe and 100 million views within nine days. Articles that make us angry, like Wall Street fat cats getting huge bonuses while employees get fired, drive us to share because the arousal it evokes push us to pass things on.
How to apply in life: Create articles or any other content that is controversial or reveal real truth. Discuss topics that people are passionate about like high prices on houses or petrol.
Public (built to show, built to grow)
How it works: People tend to imitate others. But we can only imitate others if we can see what they’re doing.
Example #1 Nonprofits have a problem that most donations to nonprofits are pretty private. You know what you donate to, and you might even know what your spouse donates to. But you don’t really have any idea what your friends or people at the office donate to.
A number of years ago in Australia, a couple of guys got together. They were drinking beers. They were talking and thinking about what would be fun to do just as a joke. They decided to have a mustache-growing contest. It happened to be the month of November, so they called it Movember. Next time they decided to raise money for men’s cancer.
This group would later become the Movember Foundation charity. The Movember Foundation has since raised $174-million worldwide.
If somebody in your office, who is a pretty buttoned-down guy starts sporting a mustache suddenly in the month of November you’re going to ask them, “Why are you doing this? What’s going on?” That will encourage them to talk about and share this Movember campaign, which will encourage you to do the same thing, either that year or next year. This is entirely offline, but public is a really simple way of getting ideas to catch on.
Example #2 Think about Apple’s headphones. If you looked around on the subway or the bus, you couldn’t tell [which products people were using] because everyone’s headphones were black. It was impossible to see what device someone was using, as opposed to another device.
But what Apple did really smartly is they used white headphones. Once you start seeing a number of people wearing white headphones, you say, “Wow. A lot of people are using this. It must be really good,” which encourages you to adopt that product as well. It’s just like if you’ve gone to a foreign city and you don’t know where to eat. How you decide? You look for a restaurant that’s full of people. It’s a totally offline example. But you assume if it’s full of people, it must be really good.
How to apply in life: Think how to make the private public, particularly in an offline environment, is a great way to help your product catch on. Give away brand car stickers or other visible items. You can see quite often people label their cars with the radio station of their choice.
Practical Value (news you can use)
How it works: People like to help one another. If we make it clear why our product or idea is so useful, people will spread the word. That’s what made a video about “how to shuck corn” so popular. People like to share news that others can use.
How to apply in life: Put together bits of useful information and create a one-page guide to something. It doesn’t have to be groundbreaking however if well packaged then it will be shared a lot. Infographics and slideshare is another great tool although it requires more time and skills.
Stories (information that people want to tell which carries your idea)
How it works: Stories are the currency of conversation. Stories provide a way to convey information in a narrative form that makes everyone lean in because they want to find out how the story ends.
Example: Megaupload‘s takedown by the FBI. It’s an incredible story that spread like wildfire, yet we can’t tell it without mentioning Megaupload, the brand.
How to apply in life: Don’t just build a good piece of content. Build good piece of content that carries your brand.
Have you had you had any successful viral content? What other great examples you can think of? I’d love to hear your stories.