6 Ways to Make Your Product, Service or Information Go Viral

How to get people to pass on positive information about your brand or product.

In Jonah Berger’s book “Contagious, why things catch on” Berger discusses why we talk about some ideas, products and services more than others.

He has come up with a structure for success and he breaks it down into 6 STEPPS.

This short video by Guiness utilises most of the ‘STEPPS’ Berger outlines in his book.

These are the steps:-

Social Currency We pass things on as a form of ‘social currency’, so what makes good social currency? Usually the stuff that will make us look good amongst our friends or peers. For example: Things that are remarkable, interesting, surprising or novel and most importantly worthy of mention.

Information that breaks a pattern or stands out.

Games with performance metrics, that have attainments and grades and encourage social comparison. We don’t just care about what we’re doing, we care about our performance in relation to others.

Things that have scarcity and exclusivity value. If it’s difficult to obtain we assume it must be worth the effort. Scarcity and exclusivity make us feel we have something not everyone else has, it makes us feel that we’re ‘insiders’ special & unique and so we tell others.

Triggers When we’re in the presence of others we try to find interesting things to say to make us look good. We come out with stuff that’s ‘top of mind’ and ‘triggers’ are the foundation of these word of mouth, top of mind conversations. It’s usually sights, smells and sounds that have triggered these thoughts and ideas or it may be something environmental. Every day apparently the average American engages in 16 conversations where they say something positive or negative about a brand. Think of ideas for recognition of your product or service that will be triggered by environmental or sensory stimulation of the target audience.

Emotion - Awe is the emotion that is often inspired by great knowledge, beauty, amazement or wonder. It often involves surprise, unexpectedness or mystery. Emotion drives people to pass things on, it's like social glue, it bonds us together in positive or negative experiences. Focus on feelings and the underlying emotions that trigger action.

Public - visibility and observability are social proof. If people see what others are doing they’re more like to do it. If it’s built to show it’s built to grow. We herd and follow and do what our peer group do. Our product needs to be visible to it’s intended audience and in use within the peer group our intended consumer belongs to.

Practical value - we share helpful and useful things. Short succinct messages are best and getting to the point and passing on practical information is more effective than great detail. Content that is obviously relevant to a narrow audience can be more viral than broadly relevant content. False info can spread as quickly as the truth so verify information before you pass it on.

Stories - people think in terms of narratives not information. Narratives are more engrossing than basic facts. They have a beginning, a middle and an end. If we get sucked in early we’ll stay for the conclusion. Stories give a sort of ‘psychological cover’ that gives an easy way to talk about product or idea without appearing to be advertising.

So, when you want to build virality Berger suggests we think of a type of ‘Trojan horse message’ containing some or all of the STEPPS hidden inside so your product, information or service is integral to the story and people can’t pass it on without it being mentioned, just like the Guiness video.