Jonah Berger is the New York Time’s best-selling author of the book Contagious: Why Things Catch On.
In his book, Jonah discusses what the six factors for contagious content are, and he refers to them as the 6 STEPPS. These principles are: Social Currency, Triggers, Emotions, Public, Practical Value and Stories.
Rather than reiterating exactly what Jonah states in his book, I will provide a brief summary of each of these “STEPPS” and how they can be used in the digital marketing space with some examples that might be easier to grasp.
Simply stated, Social Currency is social wealth or value. It refers to the status vested upon you when you talk about a certain subject. Would you rather talk about something cool, intelligent and useful to other people, or would you rather talk about something dull, monotonous and irrelevant to society? Most would probably say the former.
Why? Because talking about topics, or subject matter of perceived value makes us look well-informed, intelligent and aware.
It allows you with a certain level of prestige, and therefore, people will continue to look up to you and peg you as an “expert” or “influencer” in your given field. Consider why some of the most popular posts on the internet are “Tips and Hacks” related, or posts about “Top Tools."
In a way, the ability to talk about these tools and gadgets, especially if they are new or lesser known, places you in a position of power because of your level of knowledge. People are excited to learn about the next big thing. Often, when Apple releases a new product, people rush to order it and line up to receive the latest iPhone or Watch, because if you own one of these products, you are one of few due to their esteemed exclusivity.
As a result, you are placed in a position of higher status. This sensation is one that is duplicated through the type of content you choose to create.
A “Trigger” refers to an idea, that when stated prompts a certain thought. For instance, popcorn might remind you of the movie theater, and a cake might remind you of a birthday or celebration of some sort.
Another example is when you think of graphic design, Photoshop or Adobe might come to mind, and vice versa. The idea is that you create a product or series of products that can fit within a specific environment. That way when the idea of that “space” is brought up, your product is the first that comes to mind.
How might marketing practices make use of “Triggers”? Well, if you are familiar with SEO, what is one of the fundamental practices involved with boosting search engine optimization?
You need to be able to target certain keywords, and rank highly on those keywords. These keywords in question function like triggers. So for instance if you search the words “infographic template” or “infographic design,” you will find links to agencies that sell infographic templates.
If you search “Breaking News” you will be presented with various news broadcast sites that target the specific keyword, or that are known for their coverage of breaking news. By creating these “Trigger” keywords, you remain at the top of people’s minds as a leading entity within a specific ecosystem.
If you can create content that impacts the way people feel, it has a strong potential of being shared. We all remember the impact from the story about the young Syrian refugee boy who drowned during a boat crossing.
Why was this topic spoken of so frequently? Because the thought of a child dying reminds us of innocence lost, and stolen opportunity.In other words, it’s an extremely sad story that tugs on people’s heartstrings.
Why did people talk so much about Rob Ford, the former Mayor of Toronto? Because he aggravated a lot of citizens due to his lack of class and dignity, which was frequently portrayed in the media. When people feel strongly about something, they express those feelings to others. Today, social media is the most common means of sharing one’s thoughts.
Content that can have an emotional impact on a person is much more likely to be shared than one that is entirely factual and void of feeling.
If you create content or a product that is highly visible to the public, you provide more opportunity for people to imitate or reference that content. Think of it almost like content curation. When you write a blog post that links back to other articles that cover similar topics, you are making your article more accessible and more relatable for other individuals.
The idea of “Public” content also refers to establishing a sense of community within the environment of your product or your business. Many platforms that depend on user-generated content successfully harness the idea of “Public” content. Instagram and YouTube are examples of companies that allow their users to develop and promote initiatives that advertise themselves.
You want to ensure that whatever content you are creating sticks with people and continues to be accessed, even after the initial creation phase.
Is the content you are providing useful? Naturally when many of us spend time producing a video, a blog post or an infographic, our primary hope is that it is useful to someone. But with such a vast quantity of marketing material being created and shared every day, it’s important to highlight the incredible value that your contribution has.
What differentiates your writing from other people’s? A great way to do this is by taking the time to market original research. A study was conducted to outline the top performing infographics on Pinterest, which analyzed over 200 different Pinterest infographics and categorized them based on a range of unique factors. Due to its practical and useful nature, the research became rather popular and was able to be repurposed into more in-depth forms of content.
What happens when you come by an interesting bit of news?
How do you generally start the conversation about your latest discovery?
You form a narrative and present yourself as the main character in the story you are telling. Think back to when you were a kid and in grade school. Did you ever not do your homework? When your teacher asked you why, you most likely constructed an elaborate tale about your dog eating your essay.
The truth is that people don’t only share information in a factual sense, but they share it via stories. If you can focus on creating content that cuts through the factual and data heavy clutter, and transforms those facts into flowing narratives, they become easier to grasp and reiterate. Provide examples of real case studies in your writing in order to provide your readers with a relatable situation, and then find ways to make the message you are trying to convey integral to the story you are telling.
The infographic below condenses the 6 STEPPS. It is not imperative to ensure that one piece of content addresses every point. Sometimes your content can simply target one of these ideas and still be highly effective.
Look back at your archive of blog posts, infographics, videos and whatever content you might have created in the past, and chances are you’ve already created a series of posts that affect each of the “STEPPS” individually.