How do you get an idea to catch on?

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Challenging question, right? And in a way, kind of the crux of everything. If you have the greatest idea in the history of mankind but no one buys into it, well … was it really the greatest idea in the history of mankind? Probably not. Over Christmas and New Year’s Eve, my friends gave me a bunch of crap because my friend Greg and I were discussing this very concept while walking down the frosted streets of Northampton, MA: in essence, how do you take an idea and make people care?

Here’s a really good post on Hubspot about that general concept; it’s fueled by the research work of Jonah Berger at UPenn (Wharton), who also wrote this book on why things catch on.

As with any concept of the modern age, there has to be a number involved in the headline. In this case, it’s “6.” There are six things you need to focus on to make your idea catch on:

1. Social Currency

2. Triggers

3. Emotion

4. Public

5. Practical Value

6. Stories

Most of those above are probably fairly logical to you, but the basic ideas behind each are:

Social Currency: We all want to feel like “insiders” and share stuff out that makes other people respect us.

Triggers: Reminders for others to talk about your product/service.

Emotion: Basic, but for something to catch on or be shared, it needs to conjure up emotions in people. Otherwise people will just keep moving.

Public: This is the hardest one to fit in here; this means you need visibility and accessibility (or just good marketing).

Practical Value: Logical, no?

Stories: For an idea to catch on, it essentially needs to be a narrative.

This is all fairly logical; Berger calls it STEPPS, for the acronym down 1–6 above.

If you add it all together, what you need is a story with some emotional context and an end product that delivers a degree of practical value; then you need to get it out into the public in a way that makes users feel somewhat excited about it.

A couple of other, similarly-aligned thoughts:

Final thing: especially in marketing fields, we often talk about “things going viral.” In reality, that’s not the goal. The goal is getting people to come back. Anybody can write one thing or produce one video and have 25,000 people look at it — and then never return to their site. That happens to me sometimes on this blog. It doesn’t matter long-term at all. You want to create retention.

My name’s Ted Bauer; I blog here regularly and I’m a member of the BlogPoets network. My deal: I try to think differently about work, the future of work, leadership, management, marketing, organizational development, customer experience, and more. I’m out here trying to chase real professional connection and collaboration, not just 200K page views. Anyone want to talk? (I also do freelance and ghostwriting work, if anyone’s into that.)

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Blogging, largely about work and how to improve it. How I make (some) money:

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