These days, we’re all pretty aware that viruses spread- or rather go viral. Pathogens infect people by attaching to little particles in the air and sneaking in through the eyes, mouth, or nose. In many cases, you won’t even know you’ve caught it, you may shake hands with an unsuspecting carrier and wake up with a tickle in your throat. It’s the same as when you wake up with that jingle stuck in your head. Some things just seem to stick with us, for whatever reason, and we become infected by their hold on our attention.
It isn’t just actual viruses that go viral. Today, everything from commercials to books, to videos on the internet has the power to spread to the whole world seemingly overnight. In New York Times Bestseller, Contagious, Jonah Berger, explains how everything we know has the potential to spread like a virus.
Berger emphasizes that people pay attention to emotional content and environmental triggers, which means that information doesn’t always go viral just because it’s true. Human psychology suggests attraction to sensational content and recognizes patterns.
Berger cites a study in which it was found that voting location had a significant impact on the way people vote. When voting in a public school setting rather than a local church, voters were more likely to vote in favor of more funding for public schools.
People like to compete for social capital among their friends. They achieve this by having exclusive information. When an idea feels like it’s new, or little known to the public, it becomes more highly regarded by others. Real-life mostly isn’t as glamorous as storytellers like to make it sound. But this can be utilized to your advantage. Think of how exciting it was to gossip in high school.
For marketers, these strategies can be utilized to get a product to fly off the shelves. If your product becomes unique and exclusive enough that friends want to tell their friends about it, no matter how mundane the product is, it’s likely to sell.
It’s also important to recognize that information doesn’t always go viral for the right reasons or with the best outcomes. Especially in a climate where misinformation can be particularly dangerous, it’s important to be wary of the spread. Maybe while we’re all washing our hands for twenty seconds to protect ourselves from real viruses, taking the twenty-second pause to think can protect us from viral trends that are geared to capitalize on our psychological vulnerabilities.
But it’s not all about protecting ourselves from the spread. Entrepreneurs and small business owners can use these strategies to their advantage to sell products and ideas. The way exciting information has the ability to spread easily means that it’s easy to target audiences by tailoring marketing to the consumer’s lives. Businesses can easily use these strategies to expand quickly with little effort.