Video blog: The science behind going viral

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Of the thousands of marketing myths in existence today, the misguided belief that humor and storytelling don't fit in b-to-b social marketing has always puzzled me the most. A complex selling cycle does not require complex content for all channels, especially social channels. On our social channels, we should focus on connecting with b-to-b buyers as humans. The data support this notion. In fact, 73% of all people who read b-to-b blogs are people.

Thankfully, I no longer need to rely on made-up statics to make the point. Dr. Jonah Berger's book, "Contagious: Why Things Catch On" (Simon & Schuster, 2013) reveals the science behind why ideas go viral. We had a chance to visit at The Wharton School where he teaches marketing, and discuss the influence of word-of-mouth in b-to-b transactions. He shared ideas about how b-to-b communications managers can apply the STEPPS model—social currency, triggers, emotion, public imitation, practical value and stories—to produce more successful content.

There will always be a role for white papers and other complex marketing tools. But we'll serve our clients well if we focus on how to connect with them in a manner that is appropriate for social channels like YouTube and Twitter. Take a look at the principles in "Contagious" and experiment with Berger's resource site. Then compare the results and see what works best.

Tim Washer is a comedy writer and video producer who has worked on such TV shows as "Conan" and "Late Show with David Letterman," IBM's smarter planet campaign, and within the pages of The Onion. A senior manager of social media at Cisco Systems (, he can be reached at

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