Contagious: How to Build Word of Mouth in the Digital Age

Word of Mouth

Word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20-50% of purchasing decisions.

It’s more effective than traditional advertising because it’s:

  • More convincing since it’s from people we trust
  • More targeted since it’s to an individual

Only 7% of WoM happens online.

STEPPS: What makes things contagious

Social Currency

  1. How does it make people look to talk about a product or idea?
  2. People want to look good/intelligent


  1. How do you remind people to talk about it?
  2. Products and ideas need to be frequently triggered to be talked about
  3. Top of mind > tip of tongue


  1. When we care, we share, so how do we create messages that make people share something?
  2. Just make sure it’s the right emotion


  1. Can people see when others are using our product and engaging with it?
  2. Monkey see monkey do

Practical Value

  1. Does it seem useful?
  2. Is it easy to pass on?


  1. What broader narrative can we wrap our idea in?
  2. People don’t share info, they tell stories.

Social Currency

Secrets are valuable, which is why they frequently get told

To get people talking and make them feel like they’ll look good by sharing, you need to:

  1. Find inner remarkability
    1. Snapple facts
    2. These things are worthy of remark
    3. People exaggerate story details to make them more remarkable
    4. Generate surprise
  2. Leverage game mechanics
    1. People don’t care how they’re doing, they care how they’re doing relative to others
    2. People love boasting about awards
  3. Make them feel like insiders
    1. Secrets


WoM has to be triggered by something.

People search for the song “Friday” on Friday.

KitKat and Coffee.

Drinking a cup of fat to counter soda.


Awe boosts sharing.

Sadness decreases sharing.

But psychological arousal is the main factor.


People assume that something with a long line must be good.

Movember, made the private public.

I voted.

Livestrong bracelets.

Hotmail signatures.

Lululemon bags.

Practical Value

People like to pass along practical, useful information others can use.

Making promotions more restrictive can make them more effective

  1. Quantity purchase limits increase sales by 50%

Below 100$, frame it in percentage saved. Above 100%, frame it in dollars.


Bake all of the other 5 qualities into a story to make it easy to remember and pass on