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Contagious: Why Do Things Catch On?

By Marta Majewska (@princess_misia)
 

How can we make our campaign, product, idea more infectious? Why does one video go viral while the other gets less than 500 views? It is a never ending question, one that every marketer, agency and brand has asked themselves more than once. As there is no clear answer, we like to think that it’s luck. But according to Jonah Berger, a professor of marketing at Wharton Business School and author of the book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, it’s not luck. It’s science.

At his SXSW session, Berger might not have entirely solved the mystery but he has definitely shared some really good insights based on the 10-year research he conducted on why a product, a video, or an idea becomes more infectious.

INFLUENCERS ARE NOT THE ANSWER

It is common thinking that to generate word-of-mouth you need a handful individuals which are exceptionally ‘connected’.  Even though influencers might help you with creating awareness around your product or campaign, they are usually not very effective in making things go viral. Contagious content spreads regardless of who is doing the talking, therefore think of not focusing too much on the messenger but rather on the message.

MENTAL TRIGGERS

Ever wondered why Rebecca Black went (and still is) so annoyingly viral? Because every Friday, people still search YouTube for her video. Friday, in this case, is what Berger calls a mental trigger, stimuli that reminds people of products and ideas, prompt people to think about related things. Designing products and campaigns that are frequently triggered by the environment is key.

SOCIAL CURRENCY

Have you ever saw something you really liked but decided not to share it after all? Do you remember why you didn’t do it? Most probably because you thought it would reflect badly on you or make you seem dull, dumb, boring? Word-of-mouth has become a tool for us, to make a good impression, just like the car we drive and the clothes we choose to wear. Sharing has become a social currency so next time you are developing a campaign, think about how you can give people a way to make themselves look entertaining, clever and hip while promoting your products along the way.

If still in doubt, get a mean Panda to help you create word-of-mouth for your brand. It sure is contagious.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SyRvzeNuqa4&feature=player_embedded

 

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If you want to be sheep, get in a flock, if you want to be wolves, form a pack

Originally posted on Heliade by Danny Devriendt

Bruce Sterling did not disappoint me at the closing of SxSW. A cynic futurist and gifted speaker, he has a tradition of naming the things exactly as he sees them, without dressing them up. While he usually writes with vinegar, he switches to vitriol in his talks.

The closing speech was a 45 minute ranting, where Sterling gave Exxon Mobile, the Catholic Church, politicians, Berlusconi and Google C-levels a full broadside of his legendary fuming.

Women, cast away all the cowards from your embraces, “ gives a good idea of the tone of voice, but it got even better when Sterling invited the young generation to take over an overheating planet from the generation that let it happen:  “Go away, Boomers! You need to take power, millennials. I’ll vote for ya! Move to Austin, take over the town, and create a global youth movement. Boomers, shut up, your days are gone.  What you should study now is collaborative consumption. Days of rage, baby. Be realistic, demand the impossible!

Sterling was steaming about the fact that, while nuclear power plants are burning, and the planet is heating… the people who can move the needle sit on their coach, playing with their PlayStations and Wii’s. He’s convinced that without a revolution, the necessary efforts to save the planet and invest in clean technologies that will allow us a future will never be made.

Sterling points out that it is the millennials who should grab their future now. And they have the ultimate weapon to enforce things: the power of a social net.

All they need now is rage.


 

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Most Memorable Quotes from SXSW 2011

 

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Oil and water… (it’s not them, it’s you!)

Originally posted on Heliade by Danny Devriendt

SxSW is seen by many as the ideal launch platform for social media start-ups. Twitter, over countless others to Foursquare own a great deal of “launch momentum” to the Texas based exhibition. Only, what was the golden start-up this year?

A lot of start-ups come and try to pitch their cause at the blogger lounge, and I heard more than once that the overwhelming presence of bigger brands prevented smaller start-ups from getting a fair share of voice. Gigabrands like Google, Foursquare, Twitter etc. eating up so much attention that they literally smother to death the little beginners?

Excuse me, but I have difficulties buying that. A ton of journalists, bloggers, podcasters, venture capitalists and business angels are sifting through the five days of SxSW to find the little gem that will grow to the next Gowalla. Investors were roaming the floor with dollars in their pockets.  Claiming that you do not get noticed because O’Reilly stole your five minutes of glory is a little bit too Calimero to my taste.

Oil and water. They do not mix, and oil floats on top. Always. So does quality. If no journalist, blogger or investor made you an instant billionaire, you probably only have to blame yourself. Is your product really outstanding? Does it create a unique user experience? Is it unique? Is it compelling? Did you pitch it correctly? To the right people? Were you professional in advance briefing your targets, and in shortlisting face to face meetings? How good was your leave-behind? How professional your deck? Did you present it well: with passion and conviction? Did you identify the right messaging?

Confucius said that 98 percent of luck sits in clever preparation. Who am I to disagree… if you were worth it, you’ll get in the charts. If not: back to the drawing board…

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Dare To Be Different

Originally posted on I <3 Social Media by Marta Majewska

I’m a girl. Put some pink trees and animated animals on the wall and you caught my attention. I am also a geek. Add technology and fast working Wi-Fi to it and you’ve created an experience I will not easily forget.  Yes, I am talking about Microsoft here. The combination of technology, art, great music has made their event a night to remember.

In today’s challenging and competitive market where consumers are over flooded with information and overwhelmed by brands trying to interact with them and grab their attention, it has never been more difficult but also more important to stand out. Whether it’s an event or campaign, online or offline, brands need to find unique and exciting ways to connect with their audiences.

The HP Mobile Park is yet another original approach that made our client stand out at the SXSW Festival. What they did is create a temporary community, right next to the convention center, open to all SXSW attendees where tech, music and film bloggers as well as artists hang out.  A perfect place to relax in the sun, network, have a drink and listen to a great music. What else can you want, right?

Samsung has made the bloggers’ life easier and so much more entertaining. The Samsung Bloggers lounge is THE place to be if you’re a blogger and need to recharge your batteries, have a coffee with fellow bloggers, meet the ‘geek’ celebrities or have a book signed. There is also some great live music here and some nice food too ;)

If you’re a smaller company or a start-up, don’t worry. Differentiating yourself doesn’t always mean spending thousands and thousands of dollars on big the latest technologies and xxx. Antenas Direct found a way to stand out by advertising their Facebook page during the most prominent digital event worldwide full of AR, QR, 3D … on a cardboard beer case. Trust me, they set themselves apart.

 

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SXSW for Japan #sxswcares

Originally posted on I <3 Social Media by Marta Majewska

Japan faces one of its most devastating natural disasters in 100 years.  Here at #SXSW, we are  putting our hearts, minds and wallets together to raise support for Japan. If you would like to help too, here a  few ways to do that:

1. DONATE – Make a donation here or text your donation to 90999 (if you’re in US).
2. SHARE– On the web; On Twitter; Mention it in your SXSW talks with #sxswcares and #sxsw4japan
3. CREATE A FUNDRAISING PAGE – Start a page so your friends/family can donate to disaster relief. Read tips for it here.

Cheers!

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Pretty please? It’s not about stuff, it is about us…

Originally posted on Heliade by Danny Devriendt

Everybody needs to make a living, so I respect that everybody sells something. And listening to all the people selling their thing-of-gold @ #SxSW I cooked up a very simple rule-of-thumb to separate the chaff from the wheat.

It’s no rocket science: ignore the people that are talking about applications, software, browsers, plug-ins and tutti-quanti. They will not make it. Selling stuff will get you nowhere in the charts in the social media world. And a quick poll amongst the influent bloggers in the blogger lounge shows a similar view. Selling stuff is an indication that you do not get the game., it proves that you are playing in the wrong league. It proves that you are on a rollercoaster to lonely oblivion…

Because the game is social. And social just does not care a bit about stuff, social is about people, social is about experiencing and social, more than everything, is about us.

And the people selling experiences stand out like traffic lights in the Mobiwashi desert. Because the online consumers do not want to buy, they want to experience. And if good experience goes through a quick tap through their credit card, they do not care.

So, spotting great user experiences, gives you a great roadmap to real successful companies. How do you benefit from location based services? What curation service will get you the most relevant content? What platform will give you the most interaction with your audience, what tool will let you travel without having to worry about keeping track of your important shared documents?

It’s no longer about bits, and bytes, and CPU’s and whether or not it runs on Honeycomb, OS, Win7 or magic stardust. It’s about how and where and why. The web morphed from tech to social, from geeky to ubiquitous, from stuff to us…


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Excuse me… but who is “We” exactly?

Originally posted on Heliade by Danny Devriendt

It must be the old journalist in me. But way too often I hear in keynotes, panels and conversations the gratuitous We”, or even more angering the totalitarian “they”. “We all think…..”; “They need….”, “We all want….. they need to give….”.

I have big difficulties with these generalizing pointers. Maybe it is because I’m special, but every time I hear a keynote speaker go “and that is what we all want”, I have this uncontrollable urge to stand up and shout “not true, I’m not.” I hate it when the audience is unidirectionaly demystified, stripped from all individuality, and crammed into two buckets: “we” and “they”.

Very often I cannot identify myself with either the we or the they… and voicing the angry inner dialogue in the vast personal kingdom of my head after being pulled into a “we-crowd” against my will would be illegal on most planets.

So do not link me to whatever you have to say. Show respect for the fragile thing that makes me me. Talk about people, as Guy Kawasaki does so charmingly (or should I say “enchantingly”), talk about friends, talk about persons. Say there are, or I noticed.

You know what, if your keynote is compelling, interesting, challenging, smart, revolutionary, different or entertaining, I will join your “We” club willingly, unconditionally and completely. Until then, you’ll have to earn it.

As former French president Mitterand once said: “Tu peux me dire vous”. :-) .

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Brands : Stop Being, start Behaving…

Originally posted on Heliade by Danny Devriendt

One of the killer questions in the different panels and talks at #SxSW in Austin is: “… and what about brands”. Because, let’s face it: the boring internet of unidirectional websites has evolved into an online social forum, where people meet, talk and share.

The net is social, and the people have taken over the net in a peaceful revolution. That’s fine… but what about brands? Brands have invested heavily to build out their net-presence over the last decades, and are worried their dollars might evaporate overnight, with the masses gone rogue and confined to Facebook and Twitter. While people like Jeremiah Owyang (Altimeter) think it is a bad thing for brands to move away from the trusted fortresses of their corporate websites, this does not mean there is no future for brands in the social space.

I’m agreeing with Owyang that abandoning the build-up brand capital that now is resting in the corporate websites is a bad idea. However, rethinking the website as the vibrating energetic center of a social online ecosystem is smart. Social sites add a ton of interacting and engaging possibilities into the brands online ecosphere, and are capital to bring vital social interaction into the equation.

The first steps in this process are a bit awkward. Beyond the heavily protected walls of the corporate websites, the social online ecosphere looks like a terrifying jungle to the brand owners. There is no perceived sensation of control, which triggers asthma attacks and anxiety in more than one corporate boardroom.

The answer is however simple: go with the flow and partner up (or hire) with online Tarzans who will give you the survival code book of the jungle, effectively turning it into a social ecosystem.  Because this is a fact: Just being a brand online will get you nowhere. Just having a brand presence will not propel you into the winning charts. You will have to allow your brand to behave like a social citizen.

Humanizing corporate brands and making them alive online, allowing a human face to interact with the online community are the first getaways to new opportunities to shine. But for that, brands will have to take the hurdle from controlled “being” to social “behaving”…. And that…. is a difficult one.  :-)

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Curating content across borders: use the power of crowds!

Originally posted on Heliade by Danny Devriendt

When you specialize in cross-border, multi lingual integrated communications –like I do- you get old very, very fast ;-) . Dealing with more than 70 languages and five alphabets (and that is Europe alone) is not easy, and dealing with dynamic content is hell. How do you find it in that amount of different tongues? How do you distribute it? How can you make sure contextual information is preserved?

How do you ensure quality of translations, and a fair geographic split of content intake? How do you distribute content back in all of those languages, and how can you track comments to be able to maintain a decent finger on the pulse?

No one better to help with out with that than Steve Rosenbaum the friendly eyed author of “Curation Nation”, a fabulous, crystal clear, hands-on book on curating content. Rosenbaum gets content as no other, and is able to synthesize his thoughts in a soft spoken concise way, that I like. Enjoy his response… and his pointer at using the crowd to its fullest extent…

 

 

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