How To Craft Contagious Content In 6 Steps

by | Dec 5, 2016 | Content Marketing, HowTo

6 Min Read. |

Ever wondered why some content goes viral, while others get a warm response ? What makes contagious content versus mediocre content ? Well, if these are some of the questions that plague you then you have come to the right place. I recently went through a great video by Prof. Jonah Berger of the University of Pensylvania on the very subject. This is part of a MOOC on the internet. I found this great and thought, I could share some of the things I came across.

6 Principles of stickiness: Making of Contagious Content

  1. S–>Simple
  2. U–>Unexpected
  3. C–>Concrete
  4. C–>Credible
  5. E–>Emotional
  6. S–>Stories

1. Keep it Simple: Less is More

The statement says it all.  It is always important to bear in mind when you want to convey something best keep it to a minimum. Sure it may look minimalistic and simple, the tradeoff is in the effectiveness of such an approach. It pays off to keep in mind, the content has to be palatable to an audience from a wide stage set. Condense the content to its essential basics and convey it in an effective manner. This is the concept. Ever had that  moment, where you had to struggle to get the concept through ? Take the emphasis off the technical intricacies, turn to simple lucid language.  Sometimes less clutter means more clarity. The only downside is the danger of watering down the content too much. In cases where technicalities are required, give a link to a user manual. Ideally, if your content is lucid and simple the need for such manuals is redundant.

less-is-more_contagious content

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Sometimes less clutter means more clarity. The only downside is the danger of watering down the content too much. In cases where technicalities are required, give a link to a user manual. Ideally, if your content is lucid and simple the need for such manuals is redundant.

Use comparisons, comparisons are convincing. Analogies help cross the knowledge barrier quickly, it’s like ‘x’ but with ‘y’. Create a curiosity gap, curiosity gaps are appetizers.

2. Unexpected: The Element of Surprise

Imagine this scenario, in a peaceful part of a Suburbia somewhere in the world. A group of school children is done with their day at school. They are standing on a footpath that is just outside their school. The stairway that leads from the school entrance onto the very footpath. A silver minivan arrives, a woman in her 30’s presumably the mother of one of the children is here to pick them up after school. They all get into the minivan, and she straps on her seat belt, turns the radio to a cheerful channel. Off they go, it is a bright and wonderful day. The children are all singing along. She stops at an intersection for a red light, then when it turns green, she drives off.

Wham..! Out 0f nowhere another vehicle comes careening and collides with the minivan.

Didn’t expect that, did you ?

the-element-of-surprise_contagious content

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The above narrative goes on to show, you can capture the audience with a casual graphic narrative. Build up a certain energy around the narrative. Then suddenly, use the element of surprise. Shock and awe can be used to convey the message effectively. This is something you can do once. The element of surprise itself has a certain value to it if used correctly.  Repetition dulls it. Things with surprises add a novelty. It could be a pleasant one or a tragedy like in the narrative above. It is sure to get the message across. Open the curiosity gap and rapidly close it unexpectedly.

3. Concrete: Show don’t tell

show-dont-tell_contagious content

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Ever heard of a show and tell ? It’s a school level concept.  A child usually brings an object and narrates a story based on it. Crafting contagious content is all about ‘show don’t tell’. If you read the short narrative above, you probably started to imagine the whole scenario. This is an ability to make the audience conjure up images, merely based on a narrative. Its the small but impactful details, that bring the narrative to life. Everyday objects, that everyone can relate to.  Simple but definitive, avoid abstraction make it graphic.

One of the greatest challenges is to make something graphic, without the actual use of images and motion picture. This is where you leverage the power of the human mind to read the written word and convert it into graphic images and a sequence of events.

Even in the context of images and motion picture, a coherence and flow can stitch together seemingly fragmented information. It is all pattern making and breaking.

4. Credible: Incredibly credible

Credibility is everything in this world. If you can add credibility to your story, you have the edge. Credibility as a concept can be typically used in brand recall. How does credibility work ? Simply stating it is the basis of  solidified human belief in an idea or concept. So how do you go about solidifying belief ? The answer is quite simple and not so simple at the same time. Credibility has to do with a prior reference to performance. The best way to add credibility to any content is statistics accompanied by references of comparison. Context defines the nature of credibility for good content.

Quantitative nature of content also adds a dimension of credibility. If you have a quantifiable performance metric for your content you have credibility. If you can state testable credentials to your content, you are in a way encouraging the engagement potential of the target audience. Content with credentials encourages the consumer to try it out themselves. No better way than to experience it first hand. Credible content has the ability to surmount the inhibition barrier. This leads to higher conversion rates.

5. Emotion: Hearts and Minds

Emotion is one of the most powerful human influences. It is a part of daily life and drives almost everything we do.  Emotion has a very important place in crafting contagious content. Emotions are a specific set of human behavioral responses to situations and challenges. Perception and situational awareness are triggers to emotional responses.

This response is one of the qualities that define human nature. What is the place of emotion is crafting contagious content ? Emotion has the power to undo logical reasoning. Wouldn’t you say then that emotion plays an important role in human life ? Emotions in content need to be concrete. Content centered around emotion finds synergies with the sensitivities of the consumer. Hence the belief that Emotional content is compelling content. Almost all compelling content becomes contagious.

Even emotional insensitivity conforms to a certain class of consumer who is desensitized. Its all about ‘hearts and minds’. Question until you hit an emotional core.

6. Stories: Nothing beats a good story

With this, we come full circle. Remember we covered the power of graphic narrations ? Stories always work best with narratives. Stories are pseudo simulators and real stimulators of the human mind. Stories work well with narrative videos, video advertisements, and blogs. Great stories with all the ingredients above are the keys to contagious content.

Watch this video and gauge your imagination. Compare it with what you visualized from the story of the minivan above. That story was a narrative offshoot based on this real advertisement.

I hope you could visualize something on similar lines. If you did. It just goes to show how content has the power to engage and enthrall. One last thing, take SEO into consideration if you intend to increase your page rank and make your content more visible.

I hope you liked this post, credits go to Prof. Jonah Berger, The University of Pennsylvania for his wonderful take on crafting contagious content.


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1 Comment

  1. Bharat Vyapar

    Today it is most rely on the rich content focusing on the user perspective and full of information. User attention is needed for any content which is relates to the meaning of topic.


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