How to Make Your Message Contagious

Whether you're a salesperson, marketer, entrepreneur, or freelancer, you have to compete with all the other messages out there to get yours heard. Jonah Berger, in his book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, teaches us the six things we can do to make our message heard.

STEPPS is the clever acronym Jonah uses to help us remember his findings:
  • Social currency—we share things that make us look good;
  • Triggers—we share things that are easily remembered;
  • Emotion—we share things when we care;
  • Public—we share things that we can see;
  • Practical value—we share things others can use;
  • Stories—we share things that are housed in a good story.
Jonah shares many interesting examples for each of these and gives us ways to apply them to our message. Although every principle won't be applicable to every message, chances are you can apply one or two. He even gives us a checklist to help apply them, which I've abbreviated below.
  • Social currency: How can talking about your product make people look good and/or feel like insiders? 
  • Triggers: What cues can remind people of your product/message and how can you make that come to mind more?
  • Emotion: Does talking about your product or idea generate emotion, and especially the type that inspires sharing?
  • Public: Does using your product advertise itself and can people see when it's being used?
  • Practical value: Does your product, idea, or message allow others to disseminate useful information, helping them help others?
  • Stories: Have you included your message in a valuable, broader narrative that people will want to share?
There are too many examples to share, but two that come to mind are how Kit Kat brilliantly increased sales by linking their chocolate to coffee, which is a useful trigger given how often we all drink or think of coffee. The other is how Google made search something more personal and memorable by linking it to the story of student falling in love in Paris. (If you're not familiar with this campaign, you can see the video here.) 

The book also explains various tactics retailers use to make us feel we're getting a better deal (e.g., whether a sale should be indicated as a percentage or dollar amount), which is good to know since we're all consumers.

If you think back at the last video, Facebook post, or article you had to share, which of the STEPPS were in play? Which can you apply to your message?

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