Ivy League Professor Reveals 6 Tips For Increasing The Virality Of Your Social Content


Want to know the secrets that will make your content go viral? Of course you do! Viral content drives brand awareness, traffic, and sales. While some may argue “going viral” is based completely on luck, research shows there’s actually it’s actually a science. To learn more, I recently connected with Jonah Berger, Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Contagious to find out how you can leverage this research to engineer viral social content for your organization. Here are his 6 tips for increasing the virality of your social content. Enjoy!

Tip #1: Create Social Currency: People talk about things that make them look good.  

Make people feel like insiders, give them status, or make them feel special and they’ll tell others—and spread word of mouth about you along the way.

Tip #2: Leverage Triggers: If something is top of mind it will be tip of tongue.  

The more people think about your product or idea, the more they’ll talk about it. So consider the context and link your product or idea to triggers, or environmental reminders that you exist.

Tip #3: Harness Emotion: When we care, we share.   

What drives people to share funny YouTube videos and angry political rants might seem completely different, but they’re actually quite similar. High arousal emotions (like humor and anger) drive people to action. The more you can focus on feelings the more people will be compelled to pass on your message.

Tip #4: Make It Public: People use others’ behavior as a source of information.

Ever picked a restaurant based on how many people were inside? If lots of other people are doing something, we tend to assume it’s a good thing to do.  But imitation only happens if we can see what others are doing.  Make behavior more observable and it will be more likely to catch on.

Tip #5: Embrace Practical Value -- People love to share useful information.

Whether it’s a great deal or just helpful content, helping people see the value will encourage them to share.  For example, “Six Tips For A Great PowerPoint Presentation” and “Ten New Ways To Use Your Barbecue This Spring” highlight incredible, practical value.  

Tip #6: Tell Stories -- No one likes to be a walking advertisement or recite product features.  But we do tell stories.  

People love to tell stories about ideas we love, experiences we’ve enjoyed, and products that save the day. That said, products and ideas often come along for the ride if they’re embedded in the narrative. So like the old story of the Trojan horse, you need to build a vessel that carries your message. To do so, create an engaging narrative that spreads your product or idea under the guise of idle chatter.


About Jonah Berger

Jonah Berger is the James G. Campbell Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He has published dozens of articles in top-tier academic journals, and popular accounts of his work have appeared in places like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Science, Harvard Business Review, Wired, BusinessWeek, and Fast Company. His research has also been featured in The New York Times Magazine's annual "Year in Ideas" issue.

Berger has been recognized with awards for both scholarship and teaching, including being named Wharton's "Iron Prof" in recognition of awesome faculty research. He received his Ph.D. from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

wgriggs@spredfast.com's picture

William Griggs

William Griggs is a Field Marketing Manager at Spredfast who specializes in pipeline generation.