I finally got around to reading my complimentary copy of Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas by Dan Zarrella, which is a manifesto from Seth Godin’s Domino Project. The manifesto is a short read but it is packed with a lot of punch.
We’ve all seen videos, blog posts and ideas that spread like wildfire over the internet.
But what makes them spreadable? Is it because they are good?
Not necessarily, says Dan Zarrella, since some of those videos, blog posts and ideas aren’t good. They spread because they have contagiousness factors. They spread because they are able to reproduce themselves. “In his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins coined the word “meme” to mean a “unit of cultural inheritance.” His point was ideas evolve like genes do, and their success is based on their ability to spread, not on their benefit to provide to their hosts,” says Zarrella.
What I liked about the manifesto is that it’s researched-based and the author loves to tests things. Before an idea is spread, there are three criteria that must be met first:
- Exposure: People have to be exposed to your content, so that means that they have to subscribe to your blog, be on your email list, or follow you on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. To win at this you have to increase the number of people who subscribe to you blog, are on your email lists, and who connect or follow you on the various social networks.
- Attention: They have to be aware of the content that you want to spread, so they have to read you blog post, open your email or read you status update. To win at this, you have to write better headlines/subject lines for your blog posts and emails, as well as more engaging status updates.
- Motivation: They have to be motivated to share your content. Always have a call to action so people know what they are supposed to do next.
And the key to the above is really to experiment to determine what works and what doesn’t work so well.
Zarrella takes each criteria, and delves into them in their own chapter and gives deeper insight into exactly what he means. For instance, we are often told that if we have a small engaged list, our idea will spread, but the science doesn’t really support that. Yes, there are times we’ll get lucky, but for an idea to spread, it’s better if it’s exposed to a larger audience because not everyone will read it, and of those who read about your idea, even less will be motivated to share it.
In addition, certain words such as official, founder, speaker, expert and so on give us authority and increases our exposure. Another interesting piece of information is that people prefer information from you that’s positive because they are bombarded with so much negative information every day. And when you write, they want to hear your voice, your unique take, they want you to be authentic, but they do not want to hear about you. It’s what’s in it for them.
To grab attention you have to cut through all the clutter, but to do so, you have to say something new in a way that is familiar, or say something old in a new way, and one of the examples Zarrella gave was new adaptations of Romeo and Juliet. Another way is to personalize your message, or even broadcast your message at counterintuitive times such as on the weekends. Email messages that were sent between 5 and 6 am had the highest click through rates.
Certain types of information are more spreadable than others:
- People have to be eager for the information.
- Have to know what information people already have and what they lack.
- Have to have an understanding of what moves them – their hopes, fears, hostilities.
- Have an understanding of how they deal with their hopes, fears, hostilities, and so on.
Some of the reasons people are motivated to spread your ideas include: Personal relevance, humour, usefulness, shared common interest and so on. And the easier it is to read and understand your idea, the more spreadable it becomes.
3 Great Ideas
- Talk as yourself, not about yourself.
- Add to the conversation with interesting content.
- Scarce knowledge is power
I recommend Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas by Dan Zarrella because it has tips that you can readily implement to test for yourself.
How to Write Magnetic Headlines, Copyblogger.com
How to Write Headlines That Work, Copyblogger.com
102 Proven Social Media Headline Formulas, Chris Garrett
How to Spread Your Ideas, Leo Babauta
How can you use this information? What do you have to add to the conversation? Let’s keep the conversation flowing, please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. Many readers read this blog from other sites, so why don’t you pop over to The Invisible Mentor and subscribe (top on the right hand side) by email or RSS Feed.
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