Using Internet Stardom as a Path to Brand Awareness

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The Path to Internet Stardom
The Path to Internet Stardom

Marketers are always looking for ways to guarantee their product is a hit. In Jonah Berger's new book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, he looks at what makes products and pop culture sensations more popular than others. During our interview, Berger took the time to give me advice on how to market myself to become an Internet celebrity. Here's his advice for you, too:

If I wanted to be a Youtube sensation, how would I go about getting my video the highest view count?

I would follow the six principles in the book: social currency, triggers, emotion, public, practical value, and stories. We've discovered that these are the six keys. I would take in all of these aspects into the content I'm designing; which triggers I would link my content to, and keys and triggers that made people think of my content. I would take each of these steps and think about how to pump up this aspect.

PSY's “Gangnam Style” is the most viewed video on Youtube with over 1 billion views. What made it such a success?

Looking at monster successes is good. Looking at successes and failures is good. There are different factors that made it succeed. It had social currency. When you watch the video you're trying to figure out what's going on. You were curious. You had to talk to friends to figure out more. Another key is the public part. There is a [“Gangnam Style”] dance and that makes it much easier to find other people that like that song and what music they listen to. A lot of people are doing this dance so they must like this content. The video had a lot of social content and emotion.

How important is a partner, such as a record label in the case of a music artist, in creating an Internet hit these days?

They're much less important that they used to be. Record labels are important for distribution. If you're [“Friday” singer] Rebecca Black you still need to produce an album and get it on iTunes. That said, it has made it much easier to break into the music industry. You look at people like Rebecca Black who got a lot of attention through the Web to help propel their career. Now you see things much more from the bottom up.

How does an independent artist, like a musician or performer, create buzz around themselves without the help of a partner?

How can you turn your customers into advocates? How can you encourage them to tell more people about you? You have to understand why people talk and share in the first place.

How much of what makes something popular is a social science?

One hundred percent. Have we perfectly figured out every piece of the formula? No way. It's a complicated formula and there are lots of people making decisions. The more information we have, the more we have at predicting what's going to be popular.

What tactics are marketers using to make their products a hit?

You see more use of word-of-mouth marketing and not as much traditional advertising. We're seeing a lot more social media marketing and offline word-of-mouth marketing.

Is it possible to guarantee a hit?

I think a good analogy is baseball. Can you hit a homerun every time? No. But if you understand the science of hitters then you end up hitting more singles, doubles. Understanding why people talk and share increases the sharing, whether you get a thousand shares or a million. If you understand the science you'll be more successful.

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