Contagious by Jonah Berger | Lessons & Book Review

You can buy Contagious from Amazon using this affiliate link.*

Title: Contagious

Author: Jonah Berger

Category: Nonfiction, Marketing

Rating: 4/5

10-word summary: To go viral, create content that people want to share.

About Contagious

Contagious is a book about what makes content go viral. Berger identified 6 factors that make people want to share a certain type of content or idea. If you can build some of these factors into your content, there’s a chance people will feel compelled to share it.

The book describes each of these factors and gives several examples of instances where these factors seemed to work. Berger also shares some advice on how you can do the same when creating content you want people to share.

What I like about Contagious

1. It describes 6 factors that make content go viral in a clear way

Each chapter focuses on a different aspect that can make content go viral. Berger explains and illustrates each factor in a simple, clear and useful way.

2. The book includes real stories that show how each factor works

I really liked that each chapter included actual cases from the real world. Rather than just explaining the concept, Berger used several examples that show how they actually work.

3. It includes useful advice

In each chapter you’ll also find some principle or piece of advice that will help you think about how you can create viral content. While the book does not include a step-by-step recipe, these tips can be helpful.

4. It’s well-written, easy to read and relatively short

The structure and the language of the book are clear and easy to follow. The fact that the book includes many stories makes it much easier to read. And the book only has about 200 pages – which is enough to cover this topic. Contagious is the type of book you can read in a weekend.

What I don’t like about Contagious

1. The flow of ideas could be improved in some parts

While the book is easy to follow, there are a few instances that made it frustrating for me. Sometimes Berger would introduce a topic that he would only properly address several pages later. He starts a chapter with a story, but sometimes only explains it towards the end of the chapter.

While this may be a technique used to keep the reader curious, it was frustrating for me. It didn’t really make sense to me either.

2. Berger uses sentences that aren’t actually full sentences

He sometimes uses short sentences that include no verb. While these incomplete sentences can easily be understood, they seem to be incorrect and annoying.

Let me give you an example to make this clear:

“There are thousands of entertainment options, but our tendency to tell stories remains. We get together around our proverbial campfires – now watercoolers or girls’/guys’ night out – and tell stories. About ourselves and the things that have happened to us lately. About our friends and other people we know.”

While the first 2 sentences are clear and correct, the last 2 sentences seem incorrect and incomplete. As a person who learned English (and other languages) as a foreign language, I care a lot about proper grammar and sentences like these are a bit frustrating.

Lessons from Contagious

Word of mouth still influences some of the decisions we make. And word of mouth is even more effective than traditional advertising.

What makes people talk about an idea, a product or a service? It seems that there are several factors that matter: social currency, triggers, emotion, public, practical value and stories.

1. Social currency: “We share things that make us look good.”

We share information that makes us seem interesting, funny and in the know.

2. Triggers: “Tip of mind, tip of tongue.”

We talk about the things that we think about. And we often talk about things when there are certain triggers that make them come to mind.

3. Emotion: “When we care, we share.”

We are more likely to share information that makes us feel something – be it anger, anxiety or awe.

4. Public: “Built to show, built to grow.”

People are much more likely to imitate the behaviours they can see than those they cannot see.

5. Practical value: “News you can use.”

We are more likely to share information that is useful and practical.

6. Stories: “Information travels under the guise of idle chatter.”

People think in stories, so a good story is more interesting. Stories are also easier to remember and pass along to others.

The idea is not just to make content go viral. You should try to achieve valuable virality.

Quotes from Contagious

“We also tend to overestimate online word of mouth because it’s easier to see.”

“Even a bad review or negative word of mouth can increase sales if it informs or reminds people that the product or idea exists.”

“Emotions drive people to action. They make us laugh, shout, and cry, and they make us talk, share and buy.”

Should You Read Contagious?

Yes, if you are a content creator and you want to learn how to create viral content. This book will give you clear examples and advice that can help you create better content that people may want to share.

You may also want to read this book even if you aren’t a content creator, but you are curious about the topic. This book is interesting and easy to read, so you might enjoy it even if you don’t necessarily want to apply the ideas in it.


You can buy Contagious from Amazon using this affiliate link.*

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