If you have not read Jonah Berger’s book titled “Contagious,” you may want to do so and even include this as part of your recommended reading list for your classes (and your own social media and PR library). Here is a talk where Berger gave last year on this very topic which was featured on Talks at Google, and it really does focus on why we are sharing what we are sharing – and the overall power of word of mouth communications today.
What I do appreciate is the fact that virality – in some cases people have referred to as being luck or entertainment purposes for brands and users – is a science. Berger does highlight the six steps in which a story, brand, or individual can become viral in nature, which includes STEPPS (Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Value, Stories). There are a lot of great viral case studies here to check out – great for PR professors to showcase and talk about in their classes. There are also a lot of resources here to engage with your students with this concept in your classes on Berger’s website.
It really does depend on who you talk to when it comes to having content go “viral.” There are those that are all in favor of incorporating this as part of your strategy for social media, PR, and even marketing events and campaigns. However, there are those that say there is a time and place for viral trends, and it is better to evaluate and look at all of the factors before jumping on board.
While I think these individuals may be focusing on the first version of what we consider to be viral, I think what makes it a powerful concept is when it is taken to the next level. I think the new term we may see a lot as we finish up 2014 into 2015 is Viral 2.0, another term coined by Berger in this post. This concept makes sense because we have seen this of course with the evolution of Web 1.0, Web 2.0, and of course Web 3.0. Some of the same principles apply here and the focus is about creating valuable experiences that can be shared and integrated as part of the overall strategy for a brand.
Overall, there is a lot of ways professors can incorporate these ideas and principles for classes. Pushing the envelope when it comes to viral content and ideas and determine how this could be accomplished both through creative ideas, practical tools, and research. It may take time – you may not have an overnight sensation for your brand or client you are representing, but it may be enhanced. However, with the cases we have seen for intentional newsjacking to generate buzz or do something to spark outrage online, we have to be careful and look at both the benefits, challenges, and risks/ethical considerations when exploring this niche area in the emerging field of integrated communication marketing practice and research.
Hope you all are having a great day.