Be Contagious: 6 S.T.E.P.P.S. to Get Your Message to Spread

From the book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On

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I'm rereading Jonah Berger's book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On. Many “experts” claim there’s no such thing as creating a viral video (or any kind of viral message) - their reasoning, you can’t just CREATE something with the intent of making it spread like a virus. Just look at what takes off…some do and some don’t. “Virality” isn’t something you can control, they say.

In Contagious, on the other hand, Berger shares his findings from years of research proving there are several consistent characteristics contagious products, videos and companies all have in common. These six characteristics spell out the acronym STEPPS.

Thus, six S.T.E.P.P.S. to making your product/service “catch on”…
  • S - Social Currency
  • T - Triggers
  • E - Emotional Connection
  • P - Public
  • P - Practical Value
  • S - Story
Social Currency

People share things that make them look good, smart, ahead of the curve.


The message, the ad, the video must include a “trigger” that connects the person to the product/service at the right time (a sign inside the grocery store that reminds you to bring your reusable shopping bag doesn’t do you any good when your bags are sitting in your pantry at home).

Emotional Connection

Different emotions cause different responses; the emotion of “awe” creates the most contagious messages.


The message needs to be “visible” to be shared. The LiveStrong yellow wrist band is a perfect example!

Practical Value

Besides the desire to look good, people also share things they find helpful and they feel will benefit others.


The most sharable content is always wrapped in a great story. "Story" wraps all the previous steps into a nice package.

I can only touch on the top-level points in this blog. I’d highly recommend reading (or listening to) Contagious to dig deeper into these powerful concepts.

Check out the infographic below from JoltSITES that summarizes the six S.T.E.P.P.S. from Berger's book...

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