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Can B2B marketing content really go viral? The answer is a resounding “yes,” according to Jonah Berger, a marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On and Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior.

But it’s not enough to create a piece of content, push it out and cross your fingers that it goes viral. The first — and most important step — for getting your content to go viral is to understand why people share content in the first place.

Berger will give a keynote presentation on the attributes of viral content at the B2B Content2Conversion Conference and Demand Gen Summit (now a part of B2B Marketing Exchange), being held Feb. 20-22 in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Demand Gen Report recently caught up with Berger to get a sneak preview of what he’ll cover during his session:

Demand Gen Report: What is it that makes some online content go viral?

Jonah Berger: People often think that going viral is random, luck or chance, but it’s not. There’s a science behind it. 

DGR: In your book, Contagious, you outline six principles that drive things to become contagious, from consumer products and policy initiatives to services and ideas within organizations. Can you talk about those principles?

Berger: There are six key factors that drive people to share, and in Contagious, I put them into an acronym called STEPPS. That stands for Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Value and Stories.  We want to help others, for example, so the more practically valuable or useful news is, the more likely we are to share it. When we care, we share, so the more a story evokes certain emotions, the more likely we are to pass it on. We also share things because they make us look good (Social Currency), are top of mind (Triggers), are observable (Public) or are an impactful story.

DGR: Is it tougher to create B2B campaigns that go viral compared with consumer efforts?

Berger: B2B can sometime be tougher because the audience is smaller and less connected.  Rather than one friend sharing a funny video with anyone, to be valuable for the brand, the content has to go from one existing or potential customer to another.

DGR: Your book also contains several real-world examples of contagious ideas and campaigns. Can you share a B2B example from the book?

Berger: One great example is BlendTec’s “Will it Blend?” campaign. They got hundreds of millions of people to share videos about a $400 blender that smoothie shops buy. But there are lots of great recent examples. Jean Claude Van Damme doing a split between two Volvo trucks, Caterpillar showing how precise their machinery is [with its “Built For It” campaign] — the list goes on and on.

DGR: What content types or formats tend to be the most contagious?

Berger: It’s less about types of content and more about the psychological drivers of behavior — understanding why people do what they do.

DGR: Is there a technique you can share that will help our audience make their own content and campaigns more contagious?

Berger: Think less about technology and more about psychology. Rather than focusing on one social media channel or another, understand why people share in the first place, and use that to drive transmission.

DGR: Do you recommend an omnichannel approach to B2B campaigns to increase the chance that the content will be shared?

Berger: It definitely doesn’t hurt.


If you want to learn more about Berger’s principles for creating contagious content, get your ticket to the B2B Marketing Exchange now!

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