Introduction: Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas
I was delighted with the information in my complimentary copy of Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas by Dan Zarrella. This is a short manifesto from Seth Godin’s Domino Project that is packed with a lot of punch.
Are you interested in virality? Do you ever wonder if there is a formula for your blog posts, articles, and status updates to go viral?
If you answered yes to both questions, then this book is for you. There is a science to contagiousness.
Have you read?
What is Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness About?
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:
Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: Three Criteria for Contagiousness
- 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.
Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: 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 from Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness
- Talk as yourself, not about yourself.
- Add to the conversation with interesting content.
- Scarce knowledge is power
Final Thoughts: Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness
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.
Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: he Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious IdeasContagious: Why Things Catch OnHooked: How to Build Habit-Forming ProductsNon-Obvious 2018 Edition: How To Think Different, Curate Ideas & Predict The Future
UPDATE: First Published November 2011
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