Yesterday I heard part of a the TED Radio Hour and was intrigued by the ideas discussed, “How Things Spread.” While I was tickled by the recordings of laughter in “Why is Laughter Contagious?” presented by Sophie Scott, I was intrigued by a word in Seth Godin’s “What Makes an Idea Go Viral?”—-“remarkable.”
In the show, Seth explained that in addition to meaning “Neat!” “remarkable means ‘worth making a remark about’ and that is the essence of where idea diffusion is going.” The host summarizes “that ideas spread faster when the people that you like talk about them.” Seth says ideas spread when it’s “giving people a tool that they can share and benefit from.”
“Marketing used to make average products for average people. That’s what mass marketing is. They would ignore the geeks and, God-forbid, the laggards. It was all about going for the center. I don’t think we go for that strategy anymore. Instead you have to find a group that really desperately cares about what it is you have to say; talk to them. They have what I call ‘otaku‘” [an obsession]. He goes on to explain that to spread an idea/product/etc without a constituency with an otaku is essentially impossible. People only tell their friends about things they care or are obsessed about.
(I was concerned of course that he says that the people who get others to spread their ideas “win,” but in fairness he is interested in this topic because he is a marketeer and that sounds like creating-desire-in-people-to-buy-things-they-don’t-really-want-or-need. So that’s me. Still, I too am interested in understanding why some ideas spread and others do not. And, again in fairness, he does talk about ideas and concepts as well as products.)
He goes on to compare the spread of ideas with the spread of disease. Patterns in epidemiology are similar for ideas. And even with all of this, having something go viral is not easy: “We are better in the rearview mirror than we are predicting.”
I am interested in these ideas especially around introducing the Salon Postisme Suite of Fictions to readers, not as commodity books but as fictions with strands of ideas worthy of reflection/consideration. More on that soon…