Why Some Things Catch On + Instagram Tips

Artwork by  Tiana Crispino

Artwork by Tiana Crispino


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⭐️ In the search to answer the questions, “what’s the next big platform?”, people don’t seem to be thinking of Facebook.

⭐️This month, I read Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger and I summarized his findings into a little outline below. Hope it saves you some time or inspires you to read the book yourself. – Iris

Idea #1: Social Currency

People will share things that make themselves look good, cool, and/or informed. They’ll also share things that evoke emotion.

Idea #2: Triggers (Why Cheerios are talked about more than Disneyland)

Objects or environments that remind someone of your product will generate buzz and conversation. The more common your product’s trigger (e.g. morning breakfast for Cheerios), the longer that buzz will be around and maintained naturally.

Keeping things at the top of mind = tip of tongue.

Delayed triggers are important because a people don’t always buy immediately. These triggers should then be close to where the desired action is located, such as reminding people to bring reusable bags while they’re at home rather than when they are already at the store and it’s too late.

Original triggers are the best because general ones, like the color red, won’t reliably remind someone of your specific product.

These environmental reminders are important because the conversation about products happens mostly in person, via word of mouth. According to the book, only 7% of chatter takes place on social media.

Idea #3: Emotions

Feelings, rather than facts, are what motivates people into action. Making people mad about climate change will spur more action than making people feel sad. When it comes to positive topics, you want to inspire.

A phrase from the book: when we care, we share.

Idea #4: Public Behavior

People are more likely to do something when they see others doing. That’s one reason why brands want people to be sharing their purchases or experiences on social media where their peers can see. When something’s built to show, it’s built to grow. Berger loves his catchy phrases.

Public behavior provides social proof. When you’re not sure of a purchase, you’ll often look to others. Additionally, behavior is public but thoughts are not. If the usage of your product is easily visible (like the often re-used lululemon bags they give out instead of paper bags), it advertises for itself.

You also want to provide a way to create behavioral residue. Berger explains this concept as evidence from a behavior that others can see that stick around even after the action is taken. For example, the “I Voted” sticker.

Idea #5: Practical Value

Of course, what your offering should demonstrate expertise. Practical advice is sharable advice. When it’s packaged concisely for a narrow audience, people will be reminded of a specific person this advice applies to and is more likely to share your offering (rather than with a general audience where you may know many people who could use it).

Idea #6: Story

Narratives are vessels to share your practical value. From a story, a person is able to acquire a myriad of valuable knowledge from a story, even if unintentionally. You want to intertwine your product in a story so that it can’t be left out when someone tells it to their friends.

⭐️Instagram Stories have a lot of hacks to help you create the images you want. In this compilation, I’m most excited about #1: how to add multiple photos into one story.

⭐️Speaking of Stories, here are some thoughts about how Stories is changing social media. My biggest takeaways are: less curation in favor of more creation and private engagement, will be the new way of connecting with audiences (and vice versa) as Instagram looks to get rid of likes.

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