Making our ideas contagious
Virality isn’t born, it’s made
We all have a similar goal: for our ideas or products to catch on. This post suggests a framework we can use to help achieve this objective. I draw upon the ideas shared in Johan Berger’s book Contagious.
Contagious ideas and products often embody the following (STEPPS) components:
👍 Social Currency: We share things that make us look good.
🔫 Triggers: Top of mind, tip of tongue.
😊 Emotion: When we care, we share.
📢 Public: Built to show and grow.
💰 Practical Value: We enjoy passing on practical information.
📖 Stories: Ideas travel via the retelling of stories.
👍 Social Currency
Just as people use money to buy products or services, they use social currency to achieve desired positive impressions among their families, friends, and colleagues. So to get people talking, companies and organisations need to mint social currency. Give people a way to make themselves look good while promoting their products and ideas along the way. - Johan Berger
We care what others think of us and want to appear clever, cool and knowledgeable. We can get others to talk about our idea or product by:
Making it remarkable (worth remarking on), due to novelty, interest or surprise. Breaking expected patterns is a good way to create surprise.
Using game mechanics to make it fun and compelling. Find a way to quantify performance and show that off to others, e.g. Twitter engagement stats such as Likes and Retweets.
Creating insider status: Provide something which makes people feel special, using scarcity and exclusivity to boost word of mouth by making people feel like insiders.
Environmental triggers, reminders of related ideas or products, are very useful for bringing our idea front of mind. Accessible thoughts and ideas lead to action.
Rather than just going for a catchy message, consider the context. Think about whether the message will be triggered by the everyday environments of the target audience. - Johan Berger
Monday is not only the first day of the working week, but also an online collaboration app. We should try to pick a trigger that occurs frequently and happens near (in time and space) to the desired behaviour. Social currency gets people talking and triggers keep them doing so.
To help make our products or ideas catch on, focus on emotions that motivate people to act. In relation to positive emotions, we can inspire people by showing them how they can make a difference. On the negative side, make people mad, not sad. Making Our Ideas Sticky explores ways to establish a personal connection, including appealing to our sense of identity.
Observability has a big impact on whether ideas are discussed and catch on. The more public a product is, the greater the chance that it triggers people to take action. One way to make things more public is to design products that advertise themselves; this represents a powerful element of a marketing strategy. Apple Macs display the logo on the back of the screen, facing onlookers.
💰 Practical Value
People like sharing useful information. Offering practical value helps make our ideas contagious and strengthens social bonds. Highlighting significant value and presenting our ideas in a form that can be easily passed on encourages engagement and sharing.
People often perceive value in relative, rather than absolute, terms so presenting values as percentages helps, e.g. 60% off today catches attention. 3 Influencing Tactics for App Designers examines other ways to influence behaviour, including social proof.
The main reason I write this blog is to enable readers to develop their own apps. This post can be easily shared with others (and I’ll be very grateful if you do).
An extremely effective way for our ideas to travel is to wrap them in a story. The benefit of our idea or product should be an integral part. Certain characteristics, including surprise, make products and ideas more likely to be shared. A great example is the story of Will it Blend? where videos are made of a blender shredding items, including an iPhone and a golf ball. Making Our Ideas Sticky suggests various forms stories can take, including providing a familiar framework for understanding a new concept.
➕ Other resources
Contagious: Why Things Catch On talk by Johan Berger
Branding Our Apps post by Phil Martin
Meaningful Stories post by Phil Martin
This post suggests ways to help our ideas catch on by embodying: Social currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical value and Stories (STEPPS). Until next Sunday, consider how an idea you wish to convince others of could benefit from this approach.