Is it possible to influence how things catch on?

Apparently, yes! So the next question is “how”?

I recently read a fascinating book called “Contagious – Why Things Catch On” by Jonah Berger. As the sub-title suggests, the book focuses on the key ingredients to make something go viral. In the book, Jonah refers to quite a few of the videos I’ve collected over recent years on my Pinterest pages so I found it fascinating to read his analysis as to why those particular videos went viral when so many similar ones didn’t.


His conclusion is that there are some common ingredients that make us share something and he captures them under the acronym STEPPS. I’d thoroughly recommend this book to anyone involved in content marketing in any way as it provides tons of food for thought. So, his steps for sharing success:

S – Social Currency: people share things that make them look good.

T – Triggers: if something is top of mind, it will be tip of tongue.

E – Emotion: when we care about something, we’re more likely to share it.  And the strongest emotion to motivate sharing? “Awesome”. If it’s motivating, amazing, fascinating, then it’s more likely to be shared. However, “sad” is too passive and doesn’t encourage sharing. Basically, can you find a way to reach your audience on an emotional level that kindles the fire enough to make people want to share your content?

P – Public: if something is visible, it’s much more likely that people will imitate it. Can people see when others are using it (think Apple glowing  logo on laptops that faces the observer but is upside down for the user when they close it – that’s no accident)?

P – Practical value: Useful information, news you can use. People love sharing useful information with their friends especially when they know its relevant to that particular person and not just “everybody”. So, if you have a friend who’s having a baby, you might send them a link to an article about coping with pain during childbirth but if it’s a more general article that a number of your friends “might” find useful, you’re probably less likely to share it.

S – Stories: how information travels under the guise of idle chatter. Basically, people love stories!

Here at Screentime Communications, we’re currently working on a new online project called The Road to Retail which is intended to become a vital resource for retailers and so we’re keeping in mind the STEPPS principles as we generate new content. Our hope is that it will help us attract more eyeballs. We’ll let you know how we go!

And, if you’ve read this book, how did it resonate with you? Plus, as you can see, we love collecting interesting examples of business videos – good, bad and unusual – so if you’ve come across any, we’d love you to tell us about them. Send us links in the comments below.


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