In this day and age, making content “go viral” is a top goal of many companies. But how do you get content to go viral? Why are some things shared faster than you can say “Bob’s your uncle,” while other ideas sit on the shelf gathering dust?

If you had asked several years ago, the answer would have been dumb luck. But fortunately for us, Jonah Berger came along and devoted his research to learning how social influence works and how it drives behavior for certain products and ideas.

And what he learned is that there is a science behind why people share some things rather than others. In his book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, he discusses 6 pillars that affect the virality of an idea.

1 | The Better it Makes them Look, The More They’ll Share

Before people share a piece of content, they’ll determine its social currency. If a piece of content makes someone feel smart, in-the-know, or like an insider, they’re more likely to pass it on to others.

2 | Top of Mind Leads to Tip of Tongue

Triggers are clues that make people think about a product or idea. People often talk about whatever comes to mind, so the more often people think of a product or idea, the more it will be talked about. 

3 | When We Care, We Share

Emotions are like social glue, maintaining and strengthening relationships. Even if people are not in the same place, if they feel the same way, they become bonded through emotion.

4 | If Something is Built to Show, It’s Built to Grow

Thoughts are private, but behavior is public. Making things more observable makes them easier to imitate, which makes them more likely to become popular and thus viral.

5 | Useful Is As Useful Does

People are more likely to share useful information that has practical value. How-to’s are a good example of capitalizing on practical value.

6 | Tell a Story

Stories are the broader narrative that the idea is wrapped in, the vessel that carries information. People think in terms of narratives, and while they focus on the story itself, information comes along for the ride.

If you’d like to pick up a copy of Dr. Berger’s book referenced above, click here.

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