Can the 'Contagion Index' unlock the secrets of viral content?





What makes some social content go viral while others never make it out the gate? Professor Wharton Jonah Berger and the marketing company DigitasLBi think they know.


Author of a best-selling book Contagious: Why Things Catch On , Berger collaborated with data scientists DigitasLBi to explore the mechanism of social transmission and transmission in the context of the label itself. Together they created Infection index an online social monitoring tool designed to measure the ability of brands to consistently generate viral hits on Facebook and Twitter.


According to Berger, many companies continue to be frustrated with the conversion rate between social marketing interactions and actual sales.


“There has been a lot of excitement over the years, but when brands look at the connection between friends or followers and their sales, nothing has changed,” he said. "Just because something is viewed a million times doesn't mean it's valuable."



Instead, Berger believes that the value lies in being shared between people — and that means developing disparate metrics. Many brands and agencies evaluate social content piece by piece instead of judging company posts and presence based on cumulative performance.


“We need to shift the discussion to a metric that is more focused on the things that will create loyalty on a personal level,” says Berger.


Armed with the Contagious Index's open access tool, brands can measure that success. The “infection score” measures the effectiveness of social content through filters such as weekday versus weekend, paid versus organic, and likes versus shares. Companies can also compare their performance on social networks with their peers.


As Jill Sherman, senior vice president of social strategy at DigitasLBi, says: “We wanted to build a tool that we could learn from by comparing similar brands overall to find out. the nuances of why some can always maintain a high level of contagion.”



As a result of the project, DigitasLBi and Berger mined data from January to September to determine which brands regularly provide the "most contagious" social content.


On Facebook, Humans of New York and Mary Kay received a perfect score, while Simply Orange Juice scored a 99. On Twitter, Jaguar, Oreo, Pokemon, Ralph Lauren and Detroit Tigers were the best performing brands.




What do these scores tell us about brands? According to insights from DigitasLBi's data scientists, each of these companies has a unique approach to creating user engagement. In the case of Qatar Airways, for example, the advertising partnership with FC Barcelona fueled its success. Qatar's posts about the team have garnered hundreds of thousands of likes. When it comes to football, even a cover photo update for a Facebook page can garner hundreds of shares for the brand.



Delta, the top airline brand on Twitter, goes a different route. Delta's tweets mostly unclear information about the company, flying experience and aviation in general. Hashtags like #flysmart, #photoinflight, and #carryinguscloser encourage followers to interact with the brand, as well as their participation in the #TBT (Thursday) social trend Delta uses to showcase its long history brand life.



For Twitter's most contagious sports team, Detroit Tigers , shares are related to a steady posting schedule. The brand tweets dozens of times a day and is especially active in the hours immediately before, during and after a game. Timeliness is key here, and the surge in online interest and activity for scheduled events is the perfect opportunity to generate user engagement.


Then there are Humans of New York , which captures a love of storytelling by providing street photographs and short biographies of interesting New Yorkers. Unique posts often get tens of thousands of likes and hundreds of shares because they invite followers to contribute their own stories.


“What we share is a signal of who we are,” says Berger.



All of these brands show that there are several factors that lead to top levels of social engagement. Berger compiled his viral formula with the acronym STEPPS: social currency, triggers, emotions, publicity, factual value, and story.


“These brands have found a way to ignite passion, humor and inspiration in their customers,” says Berger. “They are providing people with useful information, tips and tricks. They are the mind and the tip of the tongue. ”


Sherman echoes this thinking, arguing that being a viral brand requires a commitment to understanding the immediacy of the social ecosystem. “It's about thinking about community management through content filtering and leveraging the spirit of culturalism,” she explains. “One of the biggest mistakes brands make is adopting the right approach for their social and content strategies. Brands that perform well on this metric check out their social channels every day to see what resonates right now. ”


Also, brands can't just create content that makes them look good. Their social content must also make users look good. Users are not interested in turning their social accounts into sub-brand pages, but they are interested in sharing content that reflects their identity and values.


“What we share is a signal of who we are,” says Berger.


For brands looking to make their content go viral, he strongly recommends developing a system that tracks what content is actually being viewed. One bad habit he's gotten into in the past is that brands equate content creation with content rendering, something that doesn't have to be the case.


However, if there's one bit of truth that brand marketers should get rid of the Viral Stats, it's that followers and engagement don't necessarily go hand in hand. Indeed, this is why understanding the qualities of viral content — and how to successfully replicate it — is so important to social marketing.


“Which one would you rather have: a hundred dedicated followers who share one or two things regularly, or ten thousand who never share anything?” Berger asked. "That's what's going to be the bottom line at the end of the day in terms of sales."







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