Note: For ease of reading I will be making each section available as a downloadable .pdf. Feel free to download the .pdf and share with friends, family, or colleagues. The .pdf is the same content as I have published below.
Download the .pdf here ==> Introduction to Viralnomics .pdf.
In 1989 a 34-year-old scientist was frustrated. CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) was a scientific hotbed but managing the massive amount of information was difficult. Tim Berners-Lee needed a way to make the research more accessible and thought the answer lay in hypertext.
So in March of 1989 he wrote a proposal and, with the help of Robert Caillau, the modern Internet was born. Hypertext (the underlined text you click on to bring you to a new/related page) was meant to make it easier for scientists to share information. Over the course of history there hasn’t been an innovation that has changed the world as quickly as his simple innovation.
http://info.cern.ch went online August 6, 1991 as the first website. It was a place where people could go and learn about hypertext, technical details for creating their own pages and an explanation of how to search the web. 1
In 1991 the first server was installed outside of Europe. In 1992 Marc Andreessen wrote Mosaic to allow users to browse webpages containing both photos and text.
10 years later in 2001 my dad and I would sit hearing the familiar beep bap boop boop beep as the Internet connected. He couldn’t wait to show me the world, from our very own home.
Little did I know that this was the end of the first dot.com bubble perhaps signified with what’s been called “the worst transaction in history” when Time Warner merged with AOL.
By then the age of information overload was already upon us. In 1995 Michael Kinsley told the Washington Post that most of the Web was “crap”2 and in 1997 Michael Hiltzik wrote in the Los Angeles Times that, “the Web reached the vast-wasteland stage faster than any other communication medium in human history.” He continued on to say “the first time you go to the Web you think, ‘Wow!’ and the third time you go on, you think, “There’s nothing to see here.’” 3
How right they were but the problem has only gotten worse. In 2010 we created more information in two days than was created from the dawn of time up until 2003. 59% of people reported that they frequently share online content with others and somebody tweeted a link to the New York Times every 4 seconds. 900,000 blog posts, 50 million tweets, 50 million Facebook status updates, and 210 billion emails were sent every day that year. 4 These numbers have undoubtedly grown since then, and not by a little bit.
Information Has Lost Its Luster
Stop pretending that your product or information is unique. It isn’t unless you’re a leading researcher in your field. As Kirby Ferguson explains a tiny few invent. Most people copy, transform, and combine. Accept that while you may be innovating, you are not inventing. 5 No ideas are built out of thin air. Many times information that you heard years back has been nestled deep inside your subconscious. It affects your decisions and has an effect on anything you produce.
Information has become a need to know initiative. The process of attaining used to be pleasurable. Books and encyclopedias with glossy photos would line a household’s shelves and families would read with each other. Now a project is assigned, a mouse is clicked, and a paper is plagiarized. The time saved is often spent focusing on more important tasks, like Angry Birds.
Over stimulation and over complication of issues has become the norm. According to David Eagleman in Incognito “the brain doesn’t need a full model of the world because it merely needs to figure out, on the fly, where to look, and when.” 6
So you have good information or a good product? Unfortunately few have the time or desire to compare the amazing specs or legitimacy of it against your competition.
There’s just too much to focus on and most things are good enough. Sure some want to truly know which tool is better but who are they to believe? Fact checking has fallen by the wayside in the age of the Internet.
False information and embellished claims are the norm. Fiction becomes fact on the Internet. Perception becomes reality. Experts are being created with less experience and knowledge than ever before.
Search Engine Optimization used to be the key to success. Before social media became as widespread as it is today people would search for information and trust the mysterious robotic engine would bring them an answer. Gaming the search engine has now become a multi-billion dollar business. Unfortunately much of the information attained from search engines cannot be trusted.
Many news agencies that were once reputable are stuck in a corner. Money is in page views and one way to get lots of page views is to publish information first. This means running with a story without the proper fact checking editorial process. 7
I believe the system is imploding upon itself and a shift is happening. I believe the pendulum is swinging the opposite way. I believe that social media is, once again, making the world a personal place.
People have no time to sift through the endless stream of marketing messages thrown at them. They often make buying decisions on an emotional whim. It’s irrational but is the only way to manage the overload.
The world is catching up and slowing down. In 2008 only 18% of Internet users over the age of 35 were using social networks in the United States. This number grew to 48% in 2010. Add to that the staggering fact that 52% of Facebook users reported using the site daily and it’s easy to tell where marketing should be directed. Perhaps what’s most interesting is that on an average day only 15% of users update their own status but 22% reported commenting on somebody else’s. 8
Before I was born people spent the majority of their time in their own neighborhood. Mom and pop stores thrived because they built personal connections and developed a reputation. Then the world became impersonal. Outsourcing became the norm and massive chains threatened and eventually shut down many mom and pop stores. It was new and the pendulum had swung. The race was on for the biggest and the cheapest.
But human beings crave personal attention. In the words of my good friend John Romaniello “people buy coaches, they don’t buy coaching”. Well people also buy accountants not accounting and people buy barista’s not coffee. Sure there are some exceptions but think why you actually chose to do business with the professionals you work with. Was it because you took the time to carefully contrast and compare? Or was it because you got a good feeling talking to them either with or without a recommendation?
In my previous life as a personal trainer we saw this all the time. People seemed to take longer deciding what restaurant to go to that night than committing to a personal trainer for the next 6 months.
So why did this happen?
One of the reasons is that fitness sells on emotion. As you will see in the coming chapters controlling and manipulating emotion is imperative to your success. This is not new in marketing. How easy it is to manipulate using social media is.
The other reason was very simple. Personal training is personal. Many of the people hiring a trainer crave the feeling that they can relax and somebody else is looking out for them. These are people with busy jobs, families, and a myriad of other stressors. Once a trainer shows them that he cares the quality of that personal trainers work goes down in importance.
As with most products and services pricing and perception of quality is arbitrary. We assume something costs a certain price because we are told it should be that way or a precedent has been set. How many people waiting in line to buy discounted gas can tell you what the price of a barrel is that day? Does anybody hiring a personal trainer really know what level of service he or she should be receiving?
This doesn’t just go for service-based industries. A rational person would realize that all they need is word processing and basic Internet capability in a new computer. A basic $400 laptop would do just fine. Yet they’re sold on the newest model because it has a better graphics card (or Ram, or memory, or any other random spec). My loose estimate is that ¾ of the people who buy that computer didn’t know a graphics card existed until they walked into the store. Fewer yet would have been able to tell you what the 3 MHz-measured speeds are. Yet when it’s brought to their attention nothing else matters. How many of you just made a note to Google MHz-measured speeds? Be honest. You just started to care about something you never knew existed. It didn’t affect you before but might just be something you look at next time you buy a computer.
Think of a social network as a massive referral network where consumers don’t think as long as they should. People go to Facebook to shut off their brain. Often times their unconscious takes over. Few would call up a friend and tell them they just had a workout. For some reason that awesome workout is posted on Facebook complete with the name of the trainer, gym, post workout shake, and a picture of the exerciser upon completion of the workout in their branded athletic clothing. That reason is what you’re going to find out. That reason is what you’re going to learn how to manipulate and control. The reason is the backbone to Viralnomics.
What is Viralnomics?
The first step to understanding Viralnomics is to consider why people use social media as much as they do. Many have cited narcissistic tendencies. Participating in social networking has been shown to be attractive to narcissists because it allows for self-presentation, satiates their craving for attention, and promotes shallow relationships. 9
Before you go yelling off the rooftops how much social media reinforces negative behavior also consider the following. Low emotionally stable individuals are more likely to share their emotions as a form of therapy. Self-disclosure online is easier and less threatening than offline disclosure. Heck micro-blogging (status updates) might offer a healthier and less costly alternative to indulgent eating, nicotine, and alcohol consumption. 10,11 Perhaps the most important information to note is that perceived social support is often a stronger predictor of well-being than received social support. 12
The above wasn’t to give you a psychology lesson. Instead I want you to start thinking deeper as to why people consciously and unconsciously use social media. In 1976 Richard Dawkins coined the term “Selfish Gene” in his book The Selfish Gene. 13 I don’t think Dawkins could have predicted the meteoric rise of both the Internet and social media. What I do believe he realized is that true altruism doesn’t exist and nowhere is this more evident than the modern day social media landscape.
Here’s the kicker. The aforementioned reasons behind sharing are powerful. You will soon learn that there is a reason behind everything that people do on social media. Emotion drives action and every action is done to achieve a goal or look a certain way. Viralnomics focuses on the end user and how to manipulate them.
It isn’t always pretty and what I’m going to tell you over the course of this book is powerful. You will learn how to implant thoughts into users heads and make them want to share it as an extension of themselves. Viral happens largely because everybody who shares content online is selectively self-representing. The same piece of content can and should have polarizing effects on its audience. Emotion drives action. If you want your message to go you must stir up a strong emotional response in your audience.
In my earlier book Race to the Top: How to Take Over the Social Media Feed I stated that information is shared for 3 reasons:
- It’s funny. Usually at no use to the creator but I will tell you exactly how to use humor to serve a purpose later on. Comedy doesn’t naturally share but comedy that the end user connects with has viral written all over it. Done properly it can be effective viral marketing.
- The person sharing the material wants to become part of a group, wants to feel like they are part of a group, or wants to strengthen their position within an existing group.
- The person sharing the information is either consciously or sub-consciously using the information as a tool to boast. It’s an extension of them. 14
I’m assuming you bought this book because you have a product or service that you want to reach a bigger audience with. I’m supposed to teach you how to create messages to go viral over social media. Conceivably I’ve broken the code and the words that follow will teach you everything you need to know to become an Internet video sensation. Sorry it’s not that easy.
I’ve sifted through hundreds of articles, books, and research papers. My plan was to create a blueprint for you. A click and follow manual. Sorry, I failed. There is no code to break and the proverbial safe is closed. There are definite patterns that can be seen from viral sensations but creating one is akin to winning the lottery.
Lucky for you it doesn’t matter. Your business doesn’t need an Internet video with 1,000,000 hits or a blog post to get 100,000 views overnight. Getting a message to spread within a carefully selected sub group already interested in buying your product will usually suffice. For that I have broken the code. That is what Viralnomics is about.
What I will do for you in this book is teach you how to pick the audience you wish to sell to. Once you have found them I will show you how to create, package, and market your message to go viral contained within that audience. This is a new take on viral marketing. It’s more controlled and purposeful. It might just put your business at the top of its industry.
Section 1 is called “How to Find Your Audience”. I’m going to challenge you to think differently and understand why it is that you do what you do. Once you know that you can figure out what audience you will appeal to. It then becomes a matter of finding that audience. Don’t worry, I’ll show you how. It’s easier than you think in this interconnected world we live in.
Section 2 is called “What Makes Viral Go”. Here is where I’ll get deep into what blogging is and isn’t. I start with a history lesson and what viral should mean to you. From there you’ll learn about what the research says about social contagion theory. Last I’ll teach you how to find and build the roads to connect your message to potential buyers. These are the people who will share your material and you may be surprised to know that they’ve been right under your nose the whole time.
Section 3 is called “Symbolism: You Must Tell Your Story Succinctly”. Symbols have never been more important in the saturated overwhelming world we live in. You must be able to get your message across quickly and effectively. The goal is to allow the end user to have ownership over their own thoughts but you plant an idea in their head. I’ll teach you my focal point system so that you can develop your own symbols quickly and effectively.
Section 4 is called “Influence: Getting People to Choose You”. This section is about getting people to buy your product or service now that they’ve seen your message. You will learn about conscious listening, how choices are made, and motivational techniques that make purchasing your stuff right then and there a no-brainer.
Social media is a mindless endeavor for most. It’s a place where users go to shut off. It’s also a place where people want to show that they are intelligent, intellectual, attractive, and funny. That’s where the power of Viralnomics lies. Get comfortable because you’re about to dive deep into the rabbit hole. Experts are being created with less experience and knowledge than ever before. Perception becomes reality online. Those that learn to manipulate social media are already finding themselves miles ahead of the competition. You need to learn how to harness this power. The answer doesn’t lie in what you think viral marketing is. The answer lies in Viralnomics.
Download the .pdf here ==> Introduction to Viralnomics .pdf.
1 Rosenberg, S. (2009). Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming, and Why It Matters. New York : Crown.
2 most of the Web was “crap” Michael Kinsley, quoted by Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post, “Kinsley Tabs Over to On-Line Magazine for Microsoft,” Nov. 7, 1995.
5 Ferguson, K. (Filmed Jun 2012 • Posted Aug 2012 • TEDGlobal 2012). http://www.ted.com. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/kirby_ferguson_embrace_the_remix.html.
6 Eagleman, D. (2012) Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain. New York : Pantheon Books.
7 Holiday, R. (2012) Trust Me I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator. New York : Penguin.
9 Campbell, L. E. (2008). Narcissism and Social Networking Web Sites. Athens Georgia: Sage.
10 Berger, E. B. (n.d.). Facebook Therapy: Why People Share Self-Relevant Content Online. Miami Florida:
11 Eva Buechel, Jonah Berger (Under Review) Facebook Therapy? Why Do People Share Self-Relevant Content Online?
12 Wethington, E. and Kessler, R. Perceived Support, Received Support, and Adjustment to Stressful Life Events. Journal of Health and Social Behavior 1986. Vol. 27 (March): 78-89.
13 Dawkins, R. (1976). The Selfish Gene: 30th Anniversary Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
14 Goodman, J. (2012) Race to the Top: How to Take Over the Social Media Feed. Toronto : CreateSpace