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Viral marketing secrets revealed by Ivy League professor Jonah Berger
Last Updated March 7th, 2013

What’s the secret to successful viral marketing?

An Ivy League professor, Jonah Berger, released a new book this week called Contagious: Why Things Catch On< And in this book, he reveals a simple framework that you can use to make your content and products go viral. (That means you'll be able to entice your readers and customers to talk about your stuff!) After appearing on Good Morning America and NPR, he's now a guest on the Social Triggers podcast (an obvious next step, right? :-D) Listen to the podcast here:

Contagious: Why Things Catch On

Contagious: Why Things Catch on By Jonah BergerA couple of years ago, I stumbled on some of Jonah Berger’s work while scouring through the academic journal databases.

And I even featured him on Social Triggers (I shared his research behind creating viral content and how bad press helps sales).

But today, on this episode of Social Triggers Insider, I asked him to reveal some of his new and BEST ideas about generating word of mouth for your business.

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The one thing I want you to pay close attention to is the framework he developed for what he calls “Social Currency.” It’s a 3-step framework, and he covers it in complete detail on this podcast.

And if you dig it, help Jonah Berger out by sharing this article on Facebook and Twitter. You may even find that your friends and colleagues will thank you for introducing them to this podcast!

Listen to this podcast where Ivy League professor reveals the secret to great viral marketing – Click to tweet

Did you know Social Triggers Insider is now on iTunes? If you enjoy this series, please take a few seconds and leave an honest review. It would be a huge help.

Right click this link to save the audio as a MP3 file to your computer

The transcript for this podcast is not available… yet. Please check back.

What next?

Now I’d like you to do two things:

  • If you think what you learned will help you get more people to your business, leave a comment letting me know how. The one thing I LOVE about research like this is that it’s insanely practical. And I love to hear how entrepreneurs like you plan to use it.
  • If you’d like to learn more about Jonah Berger’s book, pick up a copy of it on Amazon (aff). No hard sell here because the book truly sells itself.

(If you’re curious, there are 6 main things that you must learn to make your products and content go viral. We covered Social Currency and Practical value on the podcast. But in his book, he goes over the 4 other things: Triggers, Emotion, Public, and Stories).

Also, if you want to say Hello to Jonah Berger, you can hit him up on Twitter right here. Or visit his website right here.

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33 comments Leave a comment
Kathy Leicester

Derek and Jonah, terrific podcast! Interesting, funny, engaging, practical.

Right now I have just stepped into being a consultant, and am focused on creating content, content, and more content. I want to be the most remarkable leadership coach and trainer, so my energy is spent studying and practicing and creating and getting better at my craft.


Hi Derek, can you provide names of those academic journal databases ??


Hey Derek, do you have any other book recommendations?
Thanks, Chris


Thanks Jonah and Derek, I loved this podcast. It generated so many ideas for my brand and upcoming products. I’m planning to pick up a copy of this book!


Thank you so much for sharing this. I bought the book on your recommendation and loved this podcast. I’m looking to harness the “inner remarkability” of my fashion blog so that I can effectively share it. And I love the idea of emailing a commenter saying that this is one of the most insightful comments on the site. What a great way to create deeper engagement!


Uh oh, I just added another business book to my reading list! Thank you Derek and Jonah for an excellent podcast.


Hi Derek,

Podcast was amazing and the toilet paper example quoted appear to be mundane item to discuss, but it generated a lot of likes and shares.
But we never know what is going to really click but yes if you have ways to connect with the masses, it will be reflected on to your blog.

Viral marketing success cannot be copied but can only be modelled and for this basic rules remain the same.

Thanks for this great share. Keep rocking.


Jesse Howland

Thanks a lot Derek. I’ve only been following you for a short while and your content rocks! Thanks so much for the help.

Definitely buying this book!


Jess Howland


just listen your podcast and it was amazing


Hey Derek. Was looking forward to hearing this but the player doesn’t show on my iPad 🙁

Carey Buck

Great podcast Derek. Going to definitely pick up this book. Thanks Jonah for sharing.

Tanya McGill Freeman

Another wonderful Social Triggers podcast & article! Thank you so much, Derek. Great work. I, too, (like Marcy who happens to be in my BTC Brain Trust, thanks to you!) am a big fan of the fact that you always sum up the points your interviewees make as it ensures clarity for your listeners. Thank you for that. I’m off to buy the book “Contagious” now. Then on to more Blog That Converts homework – HA! Thanks so much. I’m sure this will make its way into our next Brain trust Google Hangout meeting. Much gratitude, Derek. Thanks!

Logan Merrick

Great interview Derek and a super sweet insight to how I’m going to mess with my audience’s minds!
Just kidding.

Thanks 🙂


Another awesome interview. I really appreciate you always summing up the info as you go. My mind is working on processing the information now.
I love the toilet paper example. I can think of few things I love arguing about more than inside or outside toilet paper. I would love to think of something like that, that applies to our industry, spirituality. Even considering maybe finding some shocking facts about meditation or spirituality and making little fact sharing images for facebook. I think I just may do that!

One thing I was thinking about to go deeper into the subject is the fact that people value different things, even when comparing themselves to others. For example, I have always valued feeling a little “different” than others and being very open minded. Whereas others would rather feel like they know how to wear the best designer clothes and stay up to current trends the best. So to harness the power of this comparison strategy, it probably helps to think about what the clients value, and in what ways they most prefer to feel “better than” others.



Derek, this podcast is amazing!! Very inspirational! I got 8 ideas from this podcast!! The title do you make these x mistakes on y is very useful. Furthermore, I’m planning on posting a picture with a quote (related to the topic of my website) on a daily basis on Facebook which people can share if they agree. Uhm.. what else did I write down… practical content, come up with a quote that represents the website and our vision that people can relate to and want to be part of, and some other ideas are really typical for my website and my audience.


Derek and Jonah congrats on the finest pod cast I have heard, no bull. I am without fail going to buy his book and recommend it to all my friends and associates even if I will have to translate it for my Spanish associates. Hint to Jonah: 700 million of them live in South America. I will be implementing the Insiders strategy to the max both in my online and offline marketing efforts. One thing I have learned in South America is that many of the rich are “Insiders”. Hope you can top this one Derek LOL (I know you will).
Can’t wait to catch your two day live workshop. I want to master online sales.

Sarah Jordan

Another great podcast. Thanks Derek! Adding this book to my amazon wishlist.


Just because we “can” do something, does not mean we “should”.
Getting into a mind set where we are creating stuff like this is ruination to the soul.

I completed some web teachings on a popular site yesterday and they gave me some friggen badge for my great feat, now I can show off…..really…are we monkeys….what the heck are we? Reinforcing peoples fears and base instincts is just too diabolical (greasy) to give mental energy to. They say. “what you think about is what you become”….tread carefully friends.


    Hi Holly; I am not sure we listened to the same podcast. If we did I totally missed the “reinforcing peoples fears and base instincts” parts. I agree with you that “what you think about is what you become”….tread carefully friends”. We should never secom to “Stinking thinking” Continued success in your teaching. Teachers are one of the most valuable members of society as they ensure that knowledge is passed on.


      Thanks, yes I guess I think that exploiting what I would call self centered feelings about status, acquisition, being left out etc, is about fear to me and it’s primitive animal brain stuff.

      Online marketing communication feels ethically challenged, even when it doesn’t deserve to be judged so. It is just so much less abstract, so much less to the imagination.

      Gosh, there is just something acceptable about say, a posh brick and mortar clothing store and the impressions in our minds and senses; as compared to a sales pitch trying to do it with words and pictures, it get’s all ridiculous and lame pretty fast if it is trying too hard…..and there is limited beauty, there is no lovely sales woman pouring liquid onto the magical fabric. It could be argued that this is crazy levels of manipulative above any written sales pitch or badge system but the sales person has to look me in the eye when the coup de grace is delivered, so don’t make me laugh lady!

      What I will take away from the rest of the article is the paramount importance of acknowledging the customer, delivering the value and creating a good feeling with the customer. I now recall reading this once in a Starbucks manual that I got out of a dumpster…boy I have been into getting free advice for a long time!

Lynford Morton

This is fascinating information, Derek. I’m trying a couple of these approaches in my business. This was great timing.

I just finished reading Made to Stick, which also deals with similar information. I’d love to hear an interview with those authors, if that book isn’t too old.

Thanks for bringing us such insightful interviews.


I never thought of gamification in this context. That linkedin example. mind=blown. I feel like my eyes have been opened to new opportunities.


“Show don’t tell” – I love that. Will read this book now.


Hey Derek and Jonah,

I was very intrigued while listening to your podcast – my current biggest project (among the many) is my you tube channel. I’m a singer-songwriter and am working on a bunch of new videos of original tunes and of cover tunes. I’m pretty low key and quiet myself – which makes building virility a little out of my comfort zone.

One thing I’m going to do more of is thank my fans, those who download music, or buy my album as well as new subscribers to my channel. I will also keep an arsenal of ‘in-club’ only free downloads for people who are being interactive with me on my site, twitter and youtube channel.

Also, I now have more drive to set up emotionally moving contexts for my videos, contexts which illuminate the meaning of a song, and perhaps even bring up a point of controversy. Currently I’m working on a Gotye cover – Eyes Wide Open, which is quite controversial as it is about the wreckage of the planet to our (human’s) imminent doom – I think I may be able to get some people to talk about it….

Looking for more fun light hearted stuff too – but the black toilet paper thing has already been used! 😉

Thanks again for this and other great articles and podcasts – I totally dig what you are up to!


Angela ‘LaLa’ Cross

Lisa Stein

Sounds extremely useful. Going to take a listen now. I like how he talks a lot about triggers in his book, which is in the title of your website:)

    Derek Halpern


Jonathan Goodman

Jonah was nice enough to send me an early copy and I enjoyed every word. The book is a primer on getting messages to spread that’s sorely missed in today’s social media and blogging world.

While the book goes into word of mouth offline as well, it’s something every online marketer, blogger, and page manager should have in their back pocket. I’m hoping this starts a revolution where we stop looking at new buttons, widgets, and plugins, and we start paying attention to the reasons why people push those buttons.

    Derek Halpern

    I would say it’s more than a primer ;-P.

Nick Chertock

Gotta see if this book is on Audible right now! Thanks for the interview D

    Derek Halpern

    You’re welcome.


Love this subject.

So true. Went to a posh penthouse suite in Vegas one time that had pink toilet paper and we couldn’t stop talking about it. That toilet paper almost made the whole experience.

Fascinating how our minds work. Got me thinking about my inner remarkability.

    Derek Halpern

    Pink toilet paper in a penthouse suite in Vegas?

    Now that’s a story in of itself.


I will definitely check this out. I like that you examine different approaches to Internet marketing. It’s not just the same old crap.

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