Arouse your audience with music

I’m currently reading Jonah Berger’s excellent book Contagious : Why Things Catch On which looks at various examples of why some things are shared and become popular in the world while others do not. It’s a great book with lots of useful techniques you can use to get people to take notice of your product or service, I highly recommend it. Let’s look at how you can use the concepts in the book to make your videos highly contagious!

The six STEPPS

Berger talks about 6 ‘STEPPS’ that you can use to make your content ‘contagious’. Here’s a summary of what they are (click the image to open it in a new window in higher resolution):


Within the book, Berger illustrates how important elements like music are in engaging an audience. Without these elements, or if they’re chosen poorly, the emotional and physical ‘arousal’ we hope to create in people when they come across our product or brand is lost and that drive to share the content or act on it is severely diminished.

However, if you ‘arouse’ your audience properly using the ‘STEPPS’ above, you can drastically increase the chance of people acting on your message.

But hang on, surely I don’t want to ‘arouse’ my audience?

Actually, you very much do, but to be clear we’re not talking about sexual arousal (although that might be your aim depending on the type of production you’re creating!). We’re talking about evoking emotions in people.

Arousal not only refers to sex, but also the emotional and physical responses we have to the things we encounter in our every day lives. These responses are what drive us to act after seeing or hearing something, such as feelings of:

  • Awe
  • Excitement
  • Amusement / humour
  • Anger
  • Anxiety

These forms of arousal trigger actions in people, so they are powerful catalysts in getting people to act on your message or offer. The idea is that by ‘arousing’ people with content marketing about yourself, your brand, product or service, you can make people want to share your message.

An important point to note, however, is you want to go for the arousal types listed above rather than trying to generate feelings of being content or sadness in customers which have the opposite effect says Berger i.e. people don’t tend to act when they are feeling content or sad.

How do I get people to share my videos?


Let’s look at a few basic things you’ll need to get right before you can expect people to act on your content:

Choose the right type of arousal

Obviously, the content itself is by far the most important thing you need to get right first i.e. what type of video are you going to create – something that will make people laugh? Angry or maybe nervous / anxious?

Identify the type of arousal you’re going for and refine your storyline so you’re genuinely eliciting the correct response from people. One way to check this is to test the video (or your idea) with a few people and note their response before adjusting your storyline accordingly.

Ask them questions related to how they felt when watching as you’re looking for the type of reaction your video is producing rather than the details of what was being said at this point.

Make sure your content is compelling

Are you blown away by how incredible or unusual the story is? Does it make you and those you test it with angry? If you’re not getting the response you expected, try looking at what is working with your competitors and ask yourself why their content is so evocative that people want to share it.

And yes, music is absolutely essential in creating the right emotion for your content – just think about how you can evoke feelings of awe, excitement, humour, anger and anxiety just by adding the right soundtrack.

Production values

Although storyline and the content itself is by far the most important factor to get right, high production value is quickly becoming the norm. Your viewers expect well-lit, nicely framed, perfectly paced videos that have music mixed at the right level and are in focus. People are much less forgiving these days since technology has become cheap enough for your average Joe and Jenny to make slick looking videos on a shoestring budget.

Finally, be honest, is your video shit or totally inappropriate?


Sorry to be crude, but if you’re not getting the response you expected from your test subjects when you show them your video, it’s possible that your video just isn’t up to scratch. That doesn’t mean it can’t be though, so using Berger’s 6 STEPPS, ask yourself:

    Will the person seem smart / cool / funny if they share my video?
    Does the video have any triggers I can associate it with? i.e. does it coincide with something noteworthy like the latest Christmas fad such that people interested in what I have to say will be reminded of it / triggered regularly?
    Are people responding to the emotion I’m trying to trigger? If you’re trying to make people laugh and your video isn’t funny, make sure you go back to your storyboard!
    Will people be proud to share or act on your video’s message? If you doing something that feeds back into the local community it’s likely people will be proud to ‘go public’ with it. To be honest, this may be less important for videos that it is for things like products you wear, but think objectively about how going public could be seen.
    Is the content of your video useful? Make sure it’s easy to pass on your video – distribute it through social media, use embeddable platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo etc.
    Does anybody actually care about the story of video? If you’re not getting any engagement when testing your video, ask yourself whether you’re creating a strong enough narrative that resonates with your audience. Lots of brands tie into heart´wrenching moments to tell their story, like the recent Aleppo advert about a Polish grandpa learning English so he can speak with his grandson.

On that last point, an important question is: are you putting the right type of content in front of the right type of people? Think about your audience and what is relevant to them, then make sure your video is ticking the box for their interests / needs (not yours).

There’s no point talking about self-balancing scooters with a bunch of old age pensioners who use walking sticks!

Got any more tips on making your content viral?

I’d love to hear them in the comments below!



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