Contagious: How to Build Word of Mouth in the Digital Age – by Jonah Berger
How strongly I recommend it: 9/10
See my lists of books for more.
For me this is one of the best books about virality. You can’t say you’re a marketer if you haven’t read it.
Go to the Amazon page for details.
Word of mouth is more effective than traditional advertising for two key reasons. First, it’s more persuasive. And second, word of mouth is more targeted. Is naturally directed toward an interested audience. We tend to select particular people who we think would find that given piece of information most relevant.
“The most powerful marketing is personal recommendation. Nothing is more viral or infectious than one of your friends going to a place and giving it his full recommendation.”
SIX PRINCIPLES OF CONTAGIOUSNESS
1. Social Currency:
If something is supposed to be secret, people might well be more likely to talk about it. The reason? Social currency.
We all want to be liked. The desire for social approval is a fundamental human motivation.
Sharing extraordinary, novel, or entertaining stories or ads makes people seem more extraordinary, novel, and entertaining.
People don’t just care about how they are doing, they care about their performance in relation to others.
Stimuli in the surrounding environment can also determine which thoughts and ideas are top of mind. Sights, smells, and sounds can trigger related thoughts and ideas, making them more top of mind.
Why does it matter if particular thoughts or ideas are top of mind? Because accessible thoughts and ideas lead to action.
Triggers and cues lead people to talk, choose, and use. Social currency gets people talking, but Triggers keep them talking. Top of mind means tip of tongue.
Sharing emotions helps us connect. They highlight our similarities and reminds us how much we have in common. Emotion sharing is thus a bit like social glue, maintaining and strengthening relationships.
FOCUS ON FEELINGS. Marketing messages tend to focus on information. But many times information is not enough. We need to focus on feelings; the underlying emotions that motivate people to action.
Emotions drive people to action. They make us laugh, shout, and cry, and they make us talk, share, and buy. So rather than quoting statistics or providing information, we need to focus on feelings.
Observability has a huge impact on whether products and ideas catch on.
It’s been said that when people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate one another. We look to others for information about what is right or good to do in a given situation, and this social proof shapes everything from the products we buy to the candidates we vote for.
If people can’t see what others are doing, they can’t imitate them. So to get our products and ideas to become popular we need to make them more publicly observable. We need to make the private public.
5. Practical Value
People don’t just value practical information, they share it. Offering practical value helps make things contagious.
Just because people can share with more people doesn’t mean they will. In fact, narrower content may actually be more likely to be shared because it reminds people of a specific friend or family member and makes them feel compelled to pass it along. Because it seems so uniquely perfect for her, you feel you have to share it.
Our desire to share helpful things is so powerful that it can make even false ideas succeed. Sometimes the drive to help takes a wrong turn.
People don’t think in terms of information. They think in terms of narratives. But while people focus on the story itself, information comes along for the ride.
In trying to craft contagious content, valuable virality is critical. That means making the idea or desired benefit a key part of the narrative.