Why It Matters by Eniko Tarkany-Szucs
Understanding how and why audiences share content allows marketers to create more shareable content to target those specific motivators. I picked up Jonah Berger’s New York Times bestseller, “Contagious: Why Things Catch On” during a trip to Budapest and have considered it as one of my favorite business books ever since. In his book, the Wharton School professor identifies the six principles of sharing and explains how products and content spread to become a part of your daily life. Today, we’ll expand beyond the typical Friday5 construct and include a bonus point all based on the ideas in Berger’s book about the motivation behind sharing.
1. Social Currency
What you share and talk about shapes others’ perceptions of you. We share things that make us look good and shape others’ perceptions the way we want to be perceived. Being “in the know” and having access to exclusive content or information enhances the desire to share and gives us status by association. Brands that leak exclusive information or secrets often benefit from organic word-of-mouth and can save themselves the marketing budget just by releasing information to a select few influencers. The New York City bar Please Don’t Tell executed this very well. To the uninformed the location houses a hotdog joint but those who are “in the know” know to walk through a vintage phone booth to enter a trendy bar. Member’s clubs, Foursquare badges, frequent flyer and rewards programs are great ways to encourage sharing via the social currency motivator.
Triggers are sensory cues clever marketers use to make their audience think of a product. People are triggered to think about various emotions and thoughts all the time. Peanut butter is a free ad for jelly, rum for cola, and Corona beer inevitably reminds people of the beach. Kit Kat realized that they needed to grow their brand’s awareness and what better way than to own the coffee time or break time, hence the “Have a break, Have a Kit Kat” tagline. Everyday items or activities are the best to tap into because they come around daily. We eat breakfast, see a dog, get on the bus, drink coffee and so on. Connecting a brand or content piece to an everyday object can act as a trigger for the audience to share during each experience of the object. A gecko, flamingo, skydiving or any rare activity won’t have the same effect on sharing because they won’t be triggered as often and therefore not shared as often.
When we care about something, we share the information with others. High arousal emotions work best—such as anger, amusement or empathy. While low arousal emotions—such as sadness or fear—won’t motivate people to share content. Some great examples are ”Child of the 90s” from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer group*, the Chatroulette version of Miley’s Wrecking Ball and all the cat memes in the world. People jumped on the opportunity to share the amusing content with their friends. Appeal to your audience’s high arousal emotions to increase content’s sharability.
We are more likely to imitate what we see in public. Did you know that the Apple logo used to be reversed? The logo on the Mac used to face the owner when closed to make it easier to find where the laptop opens. Then Apple realized that it’s more important for the public to see the logo right side up than the user. The decision to flip it around allowed the distinctive logo and product to advertise itself. If you are aware of others using a product because they “Like” it on Facebook or share it on other social platforms, you will be more inclined to start using it as well.
5. Practical Value
We share practical content because we want to help others. A great example is the viral video with Ken Craig on shucking corn; it’s a simple, no-frills home video with content that is useful in our everyday lives. This is why content like Lowe’s Fix in Six videos on Vine are so popular. They provide quick practical value in everyday life and rapid sharing follows.
People are more likely to share stories with their friends. We are more likely to believe a story a friend tells us about a product than an ad telling us that “nine out of ten dentists recommend it.” Facts are great, but stories will always have a bigger effect on our sharing behavior. A great example is Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches*. The video shared a story of individuals’ and focused on the audiences’ high arousal emotions to motivate sharing.
While it’s very hard to predict what content will go viral and there’s no secret recipe, these six principles provide a basic guideline to crafting shareable content by targeting the motivating principles behind sharing.
Why do you personally share content? What principle does your brand focus on the most?
* Microsoft is an Edelman client
Image credit: bengrey