The Word of Jonah Berger: How to Go Viral Online—and Anywhere

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By Gilda Galang | February 26, 2013 2:11 PM EST

For most people, having something "go viral" consists of material that usually have cute things, sexy women and scandals, or funny videos. After all, this is what seems to be most usually shared as videos in YouTube or other social networks.

But there's more to viral videos than that cat who won't stop chasing its own tail. In fact, viral marketing is one of the ways by which companies try to boost their presence online or get traffic and views from blog posts or videos, to get most return and exposure for something as simple and easy to do.

This March, Jonah Berger will come out with his new book entitled "Contagious: Why Things Catch On," where he will be discussing how things become viral through a series of case studies.

Stickiness, then "spreadability"

According to The New York Times, Berger's Contagious borrows heavily from his mentor's, Chip Heath, previous works, most of which push forward the idea of stickiness as a major backbone that supports virality.

Heath was the author of the Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die book released in 2007.

But, as Computer Media Studies reports it, stickiness is not sufficient by itself, and instead, needs another key factor to make the idea more grounded on the minds of its target-make it spread to virtually anything that the target encounters.

This means that the idea should be able to appear in more than one medium, especially for brands who are trying to make a name for themselves. You can't just stay online forever-because once your target logs off, you no longer have any grasp on them.

At the same time, you can't just go with TV and traditional medium forever, because the online and ambient mediums are growing rapidly, and becoming a formidable platform where you can create a buzz for your idea.

Spreading the idea to more than one medium-in some cases, to many variations of the medium, depending on the target market-is a great way to make the idea stickier, because the more they are seen, the more they are stick, especially if you are working with a great idea.

Status makes for a great hook

Business Insider reports that Berger also took research seriously for Contagious, going so far as to go over market research and other branding stories to come up with the main idea of positioning the brand as a social currency.

Using entertainment as a driving force

Of course, the first thing you have to understand here is that not everything can be treated with entertainment, just as not every single thing on the planet can become viral.

In a Forbes report, it touches on the technique and philosophy of Mekanism, a creative agency that has done viral work for Pepsi, 20th Century Fox, Axe, Virgine Mobile, and one of the more recent ones for American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The main goal was to get a message, adoption of animals, across, and it did, with more than 800,000 views in less than two weeks after its launch.

Hovercat the video, according to ABC News, used what has been the trending entertainment for viral videos, so it can tap into something more serious, like animal adoption, so that it will drop the preachy tone and switch it to a more fun and more palatable tone for its viewers.

Pursuing the push play button

In Think Quarterly, Berger shares that there are many more ways by which you can persuade your audience to press that play button. More importantly, there are also specific steps that would allow you to press the share button, which is even more effective in terms of viral marketing.

As Think Quarterly reports it, Berger said, "Emotional arousal drives sharing. Ever wonder why people are more likely to share an angry customer service experience than something that makes them sad? Anger is activating while sadness is deactivating."

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