Contagious Connections

In today’s lecture, we looked at techniques on how to help get your campaign message across, and we explored many different ideas and theories.

Books to look at:

Jonah Berger (Prof. of P.R); Why things catch on

Connected by Dr. Nicholas Kristakis and James Fowler

In the lecture, we watched a video on how Nicholas Christakis explains the hidden influence of social networks,

Christikas talks about how an idea spreads and how obesity has become an epidemic, it’s not a ‘patient’ epidemic where it spreads from one to another and another, epidemic in this contexts means that lots of people are doing it at the same time. he used obesity as an example, and further added that  if you’re friends are obese then it is more likely that you will become obese too. As he believed that we are connected in clusters, he  showed an ‘obesity clusters’ social network  Personally, I thought it was a load of rubbish at first and I switched off at this point too, but then it got interesting Christakis then talked about the spread of behaviour in this case ‘obesity’, which is defined as  ’emotional contagion’  he talked about vast interconnections, and what the causes of clustering and how it has a knock-on effects due to induction (‘I gain weight, causes you to gain weight’ ), homophily (Birds flocked together mentality), and confounding (common exposure). An example given was that if  your friend could adopt a behaviour by saying ‘let’s go have a muffin and beer’, and then you adopt that behaviour and then your norms about body shape changes.

When talking about clusters we also covered that:

One with weak ties can reach a cluster of people, however, this depends on how far can you reach?. For example, you could contact one person about your campaign  on Facebook asking them to view it , and the next thing you know, an additional four people could have viewed your campaign, showing how social media can be a ‘connector’

In terms of talking about campaigns, rather than using the word ‘epidemic’ we may use  the word  ‘viral’. In this context the word ‘viral’ which is a metaphor for something good rather than the ‘virus’ which is often associated with an infection. Today we learned that emotions are contagious and it could how there could be two feeds in campaigns, which are negative feeds, which provoke negative emotions and positive feeds which provoke positive emotions. Using the example of laughter on a train, which can be found below or the Facebook and Cornell University study. This video comes under positive emotion and how laughter became contagious.

Christakis and Fowler believed that ties were no longer ‘linear’ using the bucket brigade notion as an example, and how information is more directional  meaning that inbound and outbound ties make the flow of information directional.

The article ‘Connected’ involves the hidden influence of social networks, which includes  the spread of behavior, ’emotional contagion’, which involves the three degrees of separation from social networks which we inhabit today. We are connected in ‘clusters’ but the real factor to consider when conducting a campaign  is that  ‘can we connect to ‘super-connectors’, i.e. Stephen Fry, tweeting him about your campaign

Another aspect we covered was John Berger and why things catch on:

John Berger (Prof. of P.R) believed  that it was the message, not the messenger that makes your message share-able. Berger  believed that ‘social talk’ moments are a big influence when it comes to campaigns, i.e, things that spread from person to person. He introduced 6 principles to make things catch on. The six principles were :

Social currency




Practical Values


The underlying principles that will make your message work, in addition to the principles, we also learned that ‘word of mouth’ could be a science.

In the following paragraphs, I will explain what I think every principle means and how it might apply to my campaign

When connections become conduits for your message you are having an impact, the way to have a real impact could be to have a buzzword. However, your message needs to be simplified yet still correspond to reality. Complex ideas are not contagious, hence, Bergers steps.

When conducting your campaign it’s important that you make people feel ‘special’, and to do this is by social currency, getting people to share ideas to make them look good, raise their self-esteem, make them feel kind, cool in the know and they are more likely to share your message, for example, with my campaign I am looking at loneliness at University, so I would try and raise self-esteem of the students, by telling them that they are not alone, this could be presented in the leaflet or the poster if I was to create one. In addition to making them feel in the know, people may feel like an ambassador for your cause, thus increasing the spread of your message.

Triggers what does your idea trigger- When thinking about triggers, think about what it could actually trigger, thoughts? smell? emotion?

You can think about how mobile phones have become a part of daily life, and how individuals claim that we can’t live without one. When considering the trigger, it’s normally a  strong one and can be more effective than a slogan. It’s important to look at the demographics you are targeting and then use the media they are using. For example, my campaign may target students so I may target Twitter and Facebook, as social media usage is popular among students.

Sharing content that provokes emotions, ‘high arousal’ emotions, for example, making them feel excited, or emotional, it’s also important to be visually public, applying this to myself, if I want to raise awareness about my campaign, I would have to  unprotect my tweets, making it visible to everyone. This brings me to point number four, about being ‘public’  to be visible in  public as opposed to ‘private’ posts. The second to last principle would be practical values, this means to be ‘shareable’, as in your message has to be relevant, i.e have practical value, applying this to my chosen campaign, about loneliness at University, It wouldn’t be practical of myself to spread a message about how ‘University is going to be the best time of your life’, I have to be more practical and give tips or points of contact that would help people practically and to try and reduce loneliness. Lastly, you could think about your story within the campaign, as stories are trusted, make it believable by making it personal, for example, possibly a relative that has experienced the same thing.

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