After Jonathan shared that he listens to audio books in his car, I searched Audible.com for thrillers and best sellers. Then last Tuesday I asked Alexa to reach into my new audio library and produce a book entitled Contagious by Jonah Berger. I was going to learn what makes an idea go viral.
I took notes because movement–even slight annotation–inks learning on the brain. And, I cling to the hope that one day I, like Steve Jobs, might land upon a phenomenal idea.
But ideas don’t have to be phenomenal to go viral. According to Berger, six things make an idea contagious.
1. Social currency. A viral idea is one that makes the person sharing it seem important, helpful, entertaining, remarkable–awe-inspiring. Sharing a remarkable idea gives a person positive attention, social nods and intrinsic satisfaction. So viral ideas are ideas that make good social currency.
2. Triggers. Ideas associated with memorable times and places–sights, sounds, tastes, smells–attract our attention. Subconsciously people react to those triggers. Ideas linked or triggered with other memorable ideas often go viral.
3. Emotion. The social glue of viral ideas is physiological arousal. A passionate response that leads one to action-anger, anxiety, injustice, excitement, or awe causes an idea to spread epidemically.
4. Observe-ability. People share what is on the top of their minds. Items quarantined in a closet are easily forgotten but public idea go viral most often.
5. Practical Value. People like to help others, and sharing solutions by word of mouth is a kind way to help a neighbor. Ideas with practical value are more likely to go viral.
6. Stories. The human brain is hardwired to enjoy elements of a good story: settings, characters, problems, plot twists, climax, resolve. We follow a story to cheer the hero on, wanting to hear how it ends. Ideas formatted like a story often go viral.
I enjoyed hearing (reading) Contagious. It reminded me that reading enriches the mind, challenges preconceived notions and makes a person knowledgeable–sometimes wiser.
“Alexa, read the epilogue of Contagious again, please.”
I’m just helping Jonathan’s helpful idea go viral.