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How to write web content that people really like and share

Written by: Jerom

Over the past few days I've been reading a very interesting book called  “Contagious” : Why Things Catch On" by Jonah Berger (Professor of Marketing in the University of Pennsylvania). It's an excellent publication that will teach you through 6 basic principles how to design contagious content (viral). In this case I am taking the analysis by Jonah to the heart of today's topic. How to write web content that people actually like while also provoking them to share this content.

When I talk about the concept of "content", I am referring to histories, articles, news, stories, products, videos, events... And when I mention "contagious", I am referring to the high probability of spreading or diffusing said content by word of mouth and that someone then will want to share it in the social media.

The question to ask is, what makes people talk about something specific and what makes them want to share it? Just as there are delicious recipes that share the same ingredient, such as sugar, in the field of advertising they add the same ingredient to commercials and viral videos. They share common characteristics and through an in-depth analysis, Jonah gave 6 common and basic rules that will show us how to write content for your website or blog.

For this case I'd like to talk about the first point in the book because it really grabbed my interest.

Use Social Currency to write web content that people really like

What impression do people want to give when they talk about something in particular? In most cases, it is highly likely that they want to appear clever, not foolish, wealthy, not needy... What we use, eat or wear influences the perception others have of us. However, it is by nature that people enjoy the act of sharing things. Let's be honest, we love showing off. We enjoy telling others about the "cool" things that happened to us today on our Facebook, wall, the amazing dish I am currently eating, the fabulous vacations I took over the summer, the new car I bought, the video everyone is talking about...

Social currency is having or knowing about something "cool" that we can share and that as an added bonus, make us look clever or cutting edge. For example, knowing what can be pulverized better, an iPhone 6 or a Galaxy S7? It's not just about vanity. In a study published by Harvard (by Jason Mitchell and Diane Tamir) it was discovered that sharing information about yourself, such as sharing what you did last weekend, is as gratifying as eating a bar of chocolate.

This means that in order to entice people to talk about something, we should offer them a sense of social currency that motivates them to share it with their friends. We should be able to find something exceptional in the services or products we offer and generate messages that help provoke that action of sharing we aim to provoke from our audience. We need them to share. Think of an every day blender. You may find nothing exceptional or attractive about it, but if you see a video of that blender pulverizing an iPhone 6 or a Galaxy S7, I'm betting it will grab your attention, right?

Exceptional things are defined as extraordinary, new or impressive, but above all, they are worthy of mention. Exceptional things provide social currency. Give those people who share those things the means to look exceptional too. We like to "like" things. So, sharing unique stories, extraordinary ads or funny videos makes those people who share them appear original, extraordinary or funny. The key to finding social currency in our services or products is to think what could make them more intriguing, extraordinary and unique. Find that point of differentiation:

Generate surprise

Example: Blendtec launched a campaign to spread awareness of their blenders.

Will it blend?: was a series of short videos they launched with a humble budget of $50. In these videos they blended a range of unusual objects, such as golf balls, smartphones, cameras, ...etc. The videos went viral in just a few days and the brand gained enormous visibility.

Generate intrigue and mystery

Example: In New York there is a premium hot dog shop with an old telephone booth in the back. If you go inside the booth and pick up the phone dialling the right secret code, you'll be let into a clandestine bar called  "Please Don't Tell" It's like something out of a James Bond movie where you open a secret door into a paradise of good alcohol.

Generate exclusivity

Example: The restaurant Barclay Prime, in Philadelphia, created a $100 sandwich. In reality it's nothing more than a meat sandwich with lobster and nice bread, but they took into consideration the global user experience and they gave it a modest price of $100. They made so much noise about it that the media got word and started to pay attention. People felt privileged to eat a $100 sandwich.

Generate controversy

 The movie "documentary", Blair Witch Project, is about a few guys who disappear in the mountains of Maryland in search of a supposed urban legend. The first viewers of the Blair Witch Project didn't know if it was a true story or made up. The movie was filmed, camera in hand, with a measly budget of less than $35,000 and earned over $248,000,000.

Games and contests

Example: Heineken's campaign, “Crack the Case” consists in a game proposed to the consumer with the possibility to form part of history and the brand in a personalized way through the launch of the James Bond movie, Skyfall. I actually have a friend who won the contest and gave me one of the exclusive bottles from the campaign. Thanks Edu!


The trick is to unveil the inner exceptional nature of things to make them stand out. A blender so powerful that it can blend anything, a clandestine bar you can only enter by acting like a secret agent, a sandwich so good you don't mind paying $100, a movie that makes you think again about witches existing, feeling priviledged enough to participate in a game of Crack the Case and getting to meet Daniel Craig...

The key is to find what makes your ideas unique to make others want to talk about them. If you really want to dig deeper in how to write web content, I urge you to buy the book and read it. It's not expensive and it's worth everything you can learn from its author Jonah Berger.

The photo at the beginning of this post is from a post I thought was fitting. What if fonts were cats?

I hope you found this helpful. Until next time!


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