Every one of us has a message to share. Messages aren’t exclusive to marketers, writers, speakers, bloggers, and the like. Messages are shared by parents, teachers, friends, salesmen, engineers, and well, everyone. Your message is important and you want to be heard, but how do you break through in this noisy world?
Sometimes I read a book and the following month I tell everyone I talk to “you’ve gotta read this book.” Contagious was one of these books. I guess you could say that their formula works.
This book is for everyone. No matter what you do, understanding what people respond to will make you more effective. Want your kids to clean their room? Give them some social currency. Trying to get your team to collaborate more effectively? Create triggers that remind them. Having trouble closing that sale? Use emotion to get them to take action.
One of my favorite things about this book were all of the practical examples that got my creative juices flowing. If you were opening a high-end steakhouse in Philly, what could you do to create buzz? How about offering a hundred-dollar cheesesteak? The author shares how Barclay Prime did just that and how it generated buzz nationally.
I also enjoyed thinking about how these principles affect us personally. This is especially important when it comes to the news. If you’ve been around for a while, you know how I feel about the news. Here’s what the author has to say. “A lot of media information … should be approached with a healthy amount of skepticism. This is because so many media outlets … are more in the business of competing for your attention than giving you a balanced picture of the world. Real people and places become objectified …”
While I highly recommend reading the book, let me give you a taste of the six STEPPS that make your message contagious.
6 STEPPS to a Contagious Message
If you want your idea to spread, think about how it makes people look to talk about it? People want to look smart rather than dumb, rich rather than poor, and cool instead of geeky.
There are three ways to make people look good while sharing your ideas. First, find you inner remarkability. Next, leverage game mechanics. Finally, make them feel like insiders.
Of the three, I found game mechanics to be the most fascinating. Game mechanics motivate us on an interpersonal level by encouraging social comparison. “People don’t just care about how they are doing, they care about their performance in relation to others.” There are millions of examples of this: airline reward programs, fitness apps like Strava, coupon apps like Target’s Cartwheel, and some game called Pokémon Go.
Triggers are how we remind people to talk about our ideas. Triggers prompt people to think about related things. “Peanut butter reminds us of jelly and the word ‘dog’ reminds us of the word ‘cat.’” Like parasites, viral ideas attach themselves to top of mind stories. For example, Mars Bar sales spiked when in 1997 when NASA’s Pathfinder mission explored the red planet.
“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. – When we care, we share.”
How can we craft messages to make people feel something? The author suggests a process he calls the Three Whys. “Write down why you think people are doing something. Then ask “Why is this important?” three times. Each time you do this, note your answer, and you’ll notice that you drill down further and further toward uncovering not only the core of an idea, but the emotion behind it.”
People tend to follow others, but only when they can see what those others are doing. Ideas need to be public to be copied.
One of the examples used in the book is Apple’s white headphone cords. The headphones boosted iPod sales by making it easy to see how many other people were switching away from the traditional Walkman and adopting the iPod.
Interestingly, my husband recently upgraded his Samsung phone. Guess what color the headphones were? Yup, white! Nice one Samsung.
In the words of Einstein, “Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.” Humans crave the opportunity to give advice, especially if it offers practical value. Keep in mind that 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. However narrow you go, be sure to keep the value high.
People do not share information, they tell stories. Stories go back to the beginning of time as vessels that carry things such as morals and lessons. We need to package our knowledge and expertise so that people can easily pass it on.
What are you trying to share? Try crafting your message using these six STEPPS. Whether you’re selling Girl Scout Cookies or crafting social change, this formula will surely fuel your growth.
Which of these STEPPS will you implement this week to help spread your idea?
Share in the comments below.