I’ve been cranking through some startuppy/businessy books on the subway to and from the office the last few weeks. I like these sorts of books, but as a general rule I think they should all be about 1/3 as long - max. They usually have WAY too many real world examples. Here’s some cliff notes to Contagious and Rework to save you some time.
44 word synopsis:
Contagious throws science at virality. Berger has painstakingly analyzed viral spread, breaking the phenomenon into 6 core tenets – Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Value, Stories. He gives examples for each, breaking them down to make them easy to understand and hopefully incorporate.
If you’re basing your product’s marketing plan on building viral content…stop. Unless you’re Dollar Shave Club, it’s probably not going to work. However, this book is valuable if you’re shaping your product’s marketing and public image. For example, incorporating triggers into the DNA of your product from day is a great practice.
Takeaways Power Rankings:
1. Use Triggers: The viral video “Friday” got ridiculous amounts of traffic on Fridays, the campaign “Kit Kat and a Coffee” tripled Kit Kat sales, and telling students to associate their cafeteria tray with vegetables increased the chances they’d actually eat vegetables. Find something your audience does anyway and attach your product to that activity, whether it creates an interesting and slick campaign or not.
2. Help People Look Interesting. People share things that make them look smart, interesting, or in the know. Help them do that.
3. The strongest emotion is “Awe,” and viral isn’t good enough. People like to be awed. Make them aware of something amazing and they’ll share it. However, sharing and viral isn’t enough. If your product isn’t core to the campaign, it’s wasted eyeballs.
4. 7% … and track what you talk about. The amount of product sharing that occurs online/through social media is 7%. That’s absurdly low – focus your online sharing campaigns accordingly. A good exercise to drive this home is to track what you talk about for a few days. You could literally talk about anything in every single conversation you have. Why did you talk about what you did?
5. Lots of people are reading this book. Not totally book related, but I brought it up in a few conversations and got responses like “oh my friends is reading that: or “my sister just read that.” It seems that Mr. Berger used some of his own medicine in his book. Well played, sir. Also, it means that your competitors will use a lot of these ideas.
Overall – 4/5:
Probably worth a read. Goes by quick, you can definitely get away with skimming the last few chapters.
75 word synopsis + My Thoughts:
Probably one of my favorite “businessy” books ever written. Equal parts Godin and Ferris, Rework presents an actionable blueprint for startups and companies in 2013. I didn’t realize these were the Basecamp guys at first (my favorite online tool), so their words hold a ton of weight. Build what you want to use, stay small unless you need to, don’t waste time “planning,” don’t raise money, and sell your by-products. Brilliant advice described quickly and clearly. An Absolute must read.
Takeaway Power Rankings:
1. Pick a Fight. I loved this advice, and it may be very relevant for me at Find Your Lobster in the near future. Take a stand against the big competitor, even if they’re beloved. Under Armour established themselves as the next generation of Nike, forcing people to chose between the two. You create a passionate user base by taking stands. Which brings us to -
2. A few passionate is better than a bunch of lukewarm. It’s better to delight a few people than appease the masses. People who are somewhat satisfied will switch quickly and won’t pay. Passionate users will pay and won’t switch.
3. Solve one problem really well. Look at your product and find the one piece of functionality that the product absolutely couldn’t live without. Perfect that, and get rid of everything else.
4. Avoid outside money. Figure out a way to keep your bills hyper low to start, and plan your business so you cover the bills from day 1. Avoid taking money as long as possible.
5. Try it yourself first. Before you hire someone, try and handle whatever you’re hiring for yourself. If it’s something you don’t know how to do, try it until it’s abundantly clear you need someone. Then, you’ll realize what you’re hiring for and the type of person you’ll need to handle the job.
6. Sell your by-products. Find something interesting about what you’re doing that isn’t core, and sell it. Rework itself was a by-product, as are shows about trucking and catching crabs in Alaska (and really any reality show), DVD extras, etc. Make money from things you do anyway.
My favorite quote:
“A lot of companies post help-wanted ads seeking “rock stars” or “ninjas.” Lame. Unless your workplace is filled with groupies and throwing stars, these words have nothing to do with your business.”
Overall - 5/5
An absolute must-read, and I’m about to run it back to make sure I didn’t miss anything.