If it’s useful, people will share (Contagious, part 5)

Here’s the fifth post about Jonah Berger’s book Contagious: Why things catch on. Berger describes six reasons that products, ideas and behaviors spread.

Practical  Value

The good news is that getting people to read and share can be as simple as giving them something useful. Useful things are important because they help others. When was the last time you read useful tips related to your health, finances, kids or other things that matter to you? Did you read the whole thing? Did you share it with others?

Sometimes the value comes from getting a good deal on something. People evaluate things relative to an anchor or reference point. Salesmen know that people often buy the item that’s in the middle in terms of quality and price. As a buyer, you may want to pay attention when the salesperson shows the more expensive and fancier car or computer first. The salesperson wants to make the next thing you look at seem like a better deal.

Sometimes the value may be getting a discount. If the price is normally $10 and you can save $2 at a different store (20% discount), you may or may not go to the trouble to drive elsewhere. If the price is normally $100 and you can save $20 at a different store (same 20% discount), you are more likely to go elsewhere. People writing ads know that a 20% discount sounds better than a $2 discount. When the price is over $100, “$20 off” is more persuasive than a 20% discount.

Scarcity also plays into the usefulness equation. If the sign on the light bulbs says “limit 3 per customer,” people may be more likely to buy another package of light bulbs in case the store runs out. Stores say “limited time only” so people are more likely to buy now instead of waiting until next week.

Here are Berger’s six principles of contagiousness:

  1. Social currency
  2. Triggers
  3. Emotion
  4. Public
  5. Practical value
  6. Stories

Here are direct links to my posts about making it public, social currency, triggers and emotion.

Stay tuned for steps 6, stories (one of my favorite subjects).