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Contagious - You Want To Go Viral? Here's How

I was actually meaning to get 'The Lean Startup' but unfortunately it was sold out when I went to buy it, so I decided to get Contagious instead. Why things go viral is not such a bad topic since I write a book blog around several different topics that I hope are useful and practical for all of you out there.
BookMattic's Rating: 
3 Stars
There's surprisingly quite a bit that goes into trying to make an idea, product or restaurant go viral and that's what Contagious is about, following the research of Jonah Berger, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and expert on word of mouth, viral marketing, social influence and trends.

The Six Key STEPPS

From all the research that Jonah came up with for Contagious the result was his easily understandable and apply-able steps to help your content, products, ideas, YouTube videos or anything that goes into the public eye easier to spread from one person to the next then hopefully to a huge customer base. 

Here are the six STEPPS and a short description of each taken from page 207. I will then go about telling you how useful I found the way Jonah wrote about these steps.

1. Social Currency: We share things that make us look good.

2. Triggers: Top of mind, tip of tongue.

3. Emotion: When we care, we share.

4. Public: Built to show, built to grow.

5. Practical Value: News you can use.

6. Stories: Information travels under the guise of idle chatter.

What I thought...

Like I mentioned up top Contagious has a good topic for people who want to grow their business, but it's also good for anyone who is just interested in virality. Or who wants to be the next star YouTuber who ends up making it big? Any of you could probably do it if you used a few of the six STEPPS. 

Jonah made it a point in his book that you really don't need all six STEPPS to make something go viral. You could even just harness one step and make it worth your while. I'm not going to talk about all six because if you're interested in this topic you can just read the. I will however mention the few that I thought were the best. Here's an example of one of the six STEPPS, Triggers

You are the head of marketing and want to use something that will stand out and make people remember your product. You come up with a great idea to have a talking gecko telling how much you can save on your insurance in your commercials. 

I'm sure you recognize this right? 
Your company name is Geico.

This strategy may or may not work but the commercials are memorable and there is a trigger and also alliteration; gecko and Geico, both start with 'g' and end with 'ko/co'. The trigger is a gecko, so I'm not sure how good of a choice that is since you'd only see geckos if you live in a tropical environment. It seems as though Geico's choice to use a gecko has worked out well for them though partly due to its uniqueness.

That leads me into the next point that is discussed in Contagious. Things that are Emotional (Awe, Excitement, Humorous, Love, Anger and Anxiety are high arousal emotions page 109) have a higher chance of going viral whereas something that is normal, sad or makes you feel content (Low Arousal Emotions) won't spread as quickly.

Here's an example of three commercials that I pulled off YouTube that have a combination of STEPPS but mainly focus on a highly emotional impact. You surely will cry like I did when I saw these.

Heart Touching Commercials That Will Move You Emotionally! MUST WATCH!

Now if that didn't make you cry (tears of love) then I'm not sure if you're human. These commercials may hit people in different ways, but for me the second commercial advertising Teleflora was highly emotional due to the fact that I am also very far from my mother, don't see her that often and I miss her so much. 

Mom this is for you! I love you and will always be thinking of you. Thank you for raising me to be the man that I am.

The last prominent steps that I would like to share with you from Contagious are Social Currency and Practical Value which go hand in hand.

You may or may not have thought of sharing information with your family, friends and coworkers in this way but one of the main reasons (whether you agree with it or not) why people share information is to help each other out (practical value) if the other person is in trouble or needs help which also could turn out another reason (social currency) for sharing the information and that is to show yourself as someone 'in the know'. Basically to make yourself look smart by sharing something that other people may not have known about. That might seem a bit vain depending on how you go about telling the person but it's our natural tenancy as humans to help each other out by sharing useful information, products and so on.

Final Thoughts on Contagious

You might have noticed that I left out Public and Stories. The reason behind that is because those STEPPS are almost self explanatory specially when talking about public. If you make something visible it'll spread, for example all apple products have an easily recognizable logo (that is public).

For stories I mainly didn't talk about that in this review because there are several other books, one being TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking (my review in the link) which goes into deeper explanation about why telling a story filled with facts and information can help drive interest in your idea or product. 

Contagious failed a little bit in the aspect of going into depth on this particular topic. There's also several studies mentioned in this book that I clearly remember reading in Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive. So not all of this book was original. 

Jonah Berger took us through his STEPPS by telling stories about why other people's content have gone viral. It was like reading his research paper (maybe not as bland) rather than reading a 'how to'. He told us what he did, but not exactly how to do it ourselves.

Don't forget to check out the links to my previous posts and the video. If you like what I've written and feel that it has some 'Practical Value' then please click on the share button and share it with all of your friends and family.

Thanks all you book lovers out there!


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