What Makes An Idea Viral? (Seth Godin)

From: Tyler Emerson (emerson@intelligence.org)
Date: Wed Sep 28 2005 - 05:14:28 MDT

-----Original Message-----
Date: Tue, 27 Sep 2005 14:13:44 -0300
From: Marcelo Rinesi <mrinesi@fibertel.com.ar>
Subject: [wta-talk] From Seth's blog: What makes an idea viral?
To: wta-talk@transhumanism.org
Message-ID: <43397DC8.6090109@fibertel.com.ar>
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A good, short summary of criteria for viral ideas, from somebody quite
well-known the internet marketing field. How do we score in these criteria,
specially in the curret, hyperdense cultural field?


   What makes an idea viral?

    For an idea to spread, it needs to be sent and received.

    No one "sends" an idea unless:
    a. they understand it
    b. they want it to spread
    c. they believe that spreading it will enhance their power (reputation,
    friendships) or their peace of mind
    d. the effort necessary to send the idea is less than the benefits

    No one "gets" an idea unless:
    a. the first impression demands further investigation
    b. they already understand the foundation ideas necessary to get the new
    c. they trust or respect the sender enough to invest the time

    This explains why online ideas spread so fast but why they're often
shallow. Nietzsche is
    hard to understand and risky to spread, so it moves slowly among people
willing to invest
    the time. Numa Numa, on the other hand, spread like a toxic waste spill
because it was so
    transparent, reasonably funny and easy to share.

    Notice that ideas never spread because they are important to the

    Notice too that a key dynamic in the spread of the idea is the capsule
that contains it.
    If it's easy to swallow, tempting and complete, it's a lot more likely
to get a good

    But that doesn't mean that there's no role for mystery or ideas that
unfold over time. In
    fact, the unmeasurable variable here is style. Howard Dean's ideas
spread at the
    beginning--not because of the economic ramifications of his immigration
policy, but
    because of the factors above. The way they were presented fit into the
worldview of those
    that spread them.

    A key element in the spread of ideas is their visual element. iPods and
visual styles
    spread faster in the real world than ephemeral concepts. Pictures and
short jokes spread
    faster online because the investment necessary to figure out if they're
worth spreading
    is so tiny.

    And of course, plenty of bad ideas spread. Panic, for instance, is a
superbad idea at all
    times, but it spreads faster than most. That's because spreading an idea
is rarely a
    thoughtful, voluntary act. Instead, it is near the core of who we are,
and we often do it
    without thinking much about the implications.

    Posted by Seth Godin on September 27, 2005 | Permalink

Tyler Emerson | Executive Director | The Singularity Institute
Box 50182 | Palo Alto, CA 94303 | T-F: 866.667.2524
emerson@intelligence.org | http://www.singinst.org

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