Professor Jonah Berger has spent a decade investigating what makes things go viral.
What he found were 6 principles of virality (STEPPS):
- Social currency – we share what makes us look good.
- Triggers – we share what’s at the top of our minds.
- Emotion – we share what we care about.
- Public – we imitate what we see people around us are doing.
- Practical value – we share things that have value to others.
- Stories – We share stories, not information.
In this series, we’ll provide real-life examples of brands that utilize these principles.
First off: Social Currency.
Why do we share cool photos, videos and witty jokes on social media?
Because it makes us look good.
We don’t share stories that are boring because people will just think we are boring.
Jonah Berger identified three ways we can make people want to share our brand for their own sake:
A. Identify what’s remarkable about your brand
When we come across something exciting/cool/funny/awesome, we can’t wait to share it with others.
Do you want to see a blender destroy some golf balls?
Blendtec’s “Will It Blend?” series provides entertainment value, and showcases their blenders’ impressive abilities.
So even if your product is as seemingly unremarkable as a blender, don’t fret.
Ask yourself: What separates you from your competitors? What makes you unique?
Place that remarkable element front and center, so people will feel more compelled to share it!
Bellroy takes pride in slimming your wallet.
The way they compare their wallets against conventional ones paints a very compelling picture of just how slim their wallets can be.
You’ll feel amazed, order one, and proceed to show it off to your friends!
Novelty gifts are fun to look at and innately shareable.
Firebox’s beautiful website design and witty item descriptions makes you even more likely to share it with your friends.
The folks at Dyer & Jenkins have the explorer spirit baked into every aspect of their brand.
Their website and social media platforms are filled with beautiful photographs of mother nature at her finest.
Exploration guides are even included in their blog!
Hunter boots are famous for their long history, high-quality products, as well as having provided waterproof protection for British royalty.
Shop It To Me takes the hassle out of searching for online deals for your favorite brands.
All you have to do is choose your favorite brands, indicate your measurements, and Shop It To Me will alert you when your favorite items are on discount!
All you need to do is have your credit card ready…
Trunk Club is perfect for those of us who hate shopping and aren’t the best at picking out clothes.
Real-life stylists at Trunk Club will personally select pieces that match your unique personal style.
The clothes are sent right to your door for free, and you only have to pay for what you like.
Another good thing about Trunk Club is you don’t have to pay every month; only when you need some new clothes.
B. Utilize game mechanics
What’s so appealing about games, and why should you include game mechanics in your brand?
Because they can motivate customers to remain engaged in certain actions for the sake of achievements.
Game mechanics such as scoring systems, levels, and leaderboards tell you how well they’re doing in relation to others.
This encourages a form of competitive spirit, and internally motivates us to be better than others.
Customers are given stars for every purchase using their Starbucks cards.
Starting from the Welcome level, they have to collect stars to upgrade to the Green and Gold levels.
Each level provides more benefits than the previous level.
This encourages customers to drink more, so that they can gain more stars, unlock new levels and get more benefits.
Children’s apparel retailer Step2 has a leaderboard system that displays customers has given the best reviews.
This rewards the customers who are currently leaving reviews, and motivates those who haven’t started doing so.
There’s even a website dedicated to listing the badges, and how to get them!
These badges are effective because they motivate users to keep using the app, and also help promote the brand as they show off to their peers.
Instead of awarding badges, Stop, Breathe, Think, a meditation app, rewards stickers to users who continually use their app.
It’s a good thing the app is helping me build up a healthy habit!
C. Make people feel like insiders
We learnt from Dr. Cialdini that when things are scarce, people desire them much more.
Exclusivity works in the same way; only some people have access to it.
Those people can’t wait to share it with others, and your brand instantly becomes more desirable.
However, building hype also increases their expectations, so make sure that your product is rock solid.
OnePlus doesn’t sell their phones in stores; they’re only available through invites.
If you want to get your hands on one, you’ll have to find someone who has it.
They are confident that their phones will speak for themselves, and people will naturally recommend them to their peers.
Developed by the Gmail team, Google Inbox was promoted as the smarter, more efficient Gmail.
Everyone wanted to try it out, but could only do so by asking Google for an invite.
I waited three weeks for my invite, and boy, was it worth the wait!
Apparently, someone couldn’t wait, and bid for it on eBay for $205.
Crowdfunding sites (e.g. Kickstarter, Indiegogo) are where new ideas and products are introduced to the world.
Anyone can back these projects, many of which are trendsetters or technological breakthroughs.
Supporters of these projects are receive exclusive perks for their efforts.
These often give us bragging rights to being a supporter of novel ideas.
Would you sign up for something exclusive you have no idea about?
That was the question creators of the 11K Club wanted to find out.
Only 11,000 slots were available, and no one know what the membership benefits were.
Still, more than 11,000 applications were submitted, purely on the premise of exclusivity.
This is perhaps one of the best proofs of how persuasive exclusivity can be.
When Facebook started out, it was only available for Harvard students.
Within the first month, more than half of Harvard undergrads were Facebook users.
This helped the site build up a lot of hype, since the other students had to wait till it was available for their school.
Make your customers feel special, so they’ll tell everyone about it.
Ask yourself: What will excite my customers? What will make them feel unique, or look awesome?
But make sure that your product can bring genuine value to your customer; not just hype without substance.
Stay tuned for the other five principles over the next few weeks!