Published under: Agency, Book Reviews, Content Creation Services, Content Creation, Viral Content, Inbound

Creating great content that people want to share is now a basic requirement of content creation services, and the backbone of content marketing, inbound marketing and of developing thought leadership. While creating great content is vital for your organization, creating viral content is something else altogether, and considered by most to fall into the stroke-of-luck category.

contagious-book-coverUntil now. In his new book Contagious, Jonah Berger reveals the science behind creating viral content.

Jonah Berger is the James G. Campbell Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Jonah Berger studies social epidemics, or how products, ideas, and behaviors catch on and become popular. He examines how individual decision making and social dynamics (e.g., social influence) between people generate collective outcomes such as social contagion and trends. Over the last ten years, Professor Berger has examined why certain products get more word-of-mouth than others and why certain online content goes viral. This is leading edge information for anyone engaged in content creation services.

There are six basic principles that drive all sorts of things to become contagious, from consumer products and policy initiatives to workplace rumors to YouTube videos to products and even businesses themselves. They are:

Social Currency

Status by association. People like to look smart, funny, and in-the-know, so they talk about things that help them portray a positive image. People want things that make them look good rather than bad.


People talk about things that are top-of-mind. Using subtle reminders to help them think about your idea will make them more likely to share.


When we care, we share. High arousal emotions—like excitement, anger, and awe tend to fire people up. This activation, in turn, drives them to share.


Built to show, built to grow. People often imitate others. But you can’t imitate what you can’t observe. Making behavior more public enables social influence.

Practical Value

News you can use. People share things to help others, whether it is advice on saving time, saving money, or making them healthier.


Stories are like Trojan Horses: Information travels under the guise of idle chatter. People are more likely to share a memorable story than a list of technical facts and features about a product.

As we develop content for our clients through our content creation services, these guidelines enable the creation of more engaging pieces. In fact, these are ideas and guidelines we can use not only in developing better content, but in developing better products and businesses as well. Find a free workbook to help you through this process here.