Contagious – Why Things Catch On (1st of a series)

Some of you probably see my FB status and aware that I do invest in books that will help me personally and my startup. Other than providing software testing, I’d like to add more value to our partnership by actually helping you make your product more awesome, and hopefully increase your bottom line. I will summarize a book and discuss some key concepts on how you can apply it to your own app or service. It is my desire that by teaching myself to apply the concepts from the book/s I’m reading, I’ll pay it forward by telling what I’ve learned and how you can apply it as well. So lets start.

I’m currently reading this award winning book by Jonah Berger called Contagious – Why Things Catch On that discusses factors on what makes a product/app or service “viral”. It was the result of more than a decade of research where he analyzed (as a PHD student at Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania) and spent thousands of hours collecting, coding and analyzing thousands of brands with the goal of understanding social influence and what drives certain things to be popular. Why do people talk about certain products (and apps) and ideas more than others? He discusses six basic principles to drive all sorts of things to become contagious and the book actually will show you how to make your product or idea catch on. If you are a CEO or founder of any company, you want your product to catch people’s attention yes? You want your product to be the talk of the town in around water cooler area? You want your product to be the main topic during startup weekends talk. You want your product to be successful and get more paying clients and increase your bottom line.

So here are six principles of contagiousness:
Principle 1: Social Currency
Principle 2: Triggers
Principle 3: Emotion
Principle 4: Public
Principle 5: Practical Value
Principle 6: Stories

I will first discuss principle 1 and move on other topics in my next emails. Will probably do this once a week.

Social Currency as discussed in the book in my own word is basically “pogi points” in Filipino term. Naturally we want to look smart than dumb, rich than poor and cool than geeky. Like the clothes we wear and the cars we drive, what we talk about influences how others see us. Its called social currency, but I call it pogi points. So to get potential customers talking about our product, we need to craft messages that help them achieve these desired impressions. We need to find our inner remarkability and make people feel like insiders. We need to leverage game mechanics to give people ways to achieve and provide visible symbols of status that they can show to others.

So here are the things to do if you want to achieve social currency to your apps. You may discussed these ideas to your marketing people and see how they can implement these into your own startups

1. Make people feel like insiders. A good example are those 1 day flash sales that only few people can avail if they are members of that special club. Chances are, people will share it to their friends and say “Oh I was able to avail this by being a member of this special club …” If you have an app that you want people to talk about market it in such a way that when people use it, they belong to a “blessed group” of people. Something like this:
– “Several moms are saving tons of money and time by paying fees using this mobile app instead of going out to do it. Do you want to be part of this exclusive club of moms who are now finding this app very helpful to their lives? Download this app now!”
– “Only few people knows this secret, they can actually eat for free on some selected restaurants by using this now to be part of….”
– “Entrepreneurs are now using this app to sell products without inventory and deliver it to their buyers even without their own logistics team! Want to find more? Visit <> and download our app”

2. Add remarkability to your app. Remarkability is defined as something unusual, extraordinary or worthy of notice or attention. Something can be remarkable because it is novel, surprising, extreme or just plain interesting. But the most important aspect of remarkable things is that they are worthy of remark. Worthy of mention. Remarkability provide social currency or pogi points because they make the people who talk about them seem , well, more remarkable. So think of something about your product that makes it really interesting, surprising or novel. Can it do something that no one thought would be possible (I remember seeing a youtube of Blendec – a brand of blender that blends iPhones and golf balls!). Realistically, if your app offers something that can be found in other apps as well, it may not add social currency to you. So emphasize what’s remarkable about your app that people will talk about, not just some generic feature of your apps.

3. Leverage Game Mechanics. Add a feature in your app that will allow the user to see his/her rank as compared to other users of the same app. You could do this by adding some point system to encourage using the app more and at the same thing compare his usage against other people. Reward people for achieving certain points. I remember being a “mayor” of a specific place in Foursquare and would brag about it in Facebook! Do something similar. A good game mechanics can create achievement out of nothing. Airlines turned loyalty into status symbol. Foursquare made it a mark of distinction to be a fixture at the corner bar. Good game mechanics keep users engaged, motivated and always wanting to more. One way game mechanics motivate is internally. It also motivate us on an interpersonal level by encouraging social comparison.

I hope this helps! I will discuss about Triggers next week.


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