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Creating the Remarkable and Contagious for Your Association

by | Dec 5, 2013 | Industry News & Trends

I was looking at the statistics from this past weekend’s annual exercise into insanity we lovingly call Black Friday (and now Gray Thursday, too), and was interested in seeing if there were any lessons there for associations related to creating value for members.

Don’t worry; I’m not suggesting associations should create Black Friday like events, full of too much crazy behavior and too little elbowroom. Instead, let’s take a look at what drives people to do extreme things this one weekend out of the year.

The main motivators and drivers for Black Friday shoppers are often scarcity and exclusivity. Scarcity is about how much of something is currently available, determined by demand, production, or location. In turn, exclusivity is about availability, but in a different way. Exclusive things are made available only to people who meet particular criteria – say a member of an association, for example.

In reality, exclusivity is also about knowledge – having access to gated information or being connected to people who do. And this is where exclusivity and scarcity connect to your association.

Associations have traditionally been the sole gatekeepers of information relative to its profession or industry. However, we’ve been told the Internet has made it all but impossible for associations to remain in this role. And while that may be true, that doesn’t change the game, just how it is played.

The big discounts people scurry to find on Black Friday are in actuality, available throughout the year. It just takes more time and effort to find them – time that maybe you don’t have, or aren’t willing to spend. And while information relative to an association’s members might technically be “out there”, that doesn’t mean that it’s always easy to find, or even relevant today.

Most associations know about the power of word of mouth – how it often plays a big role in driving success. However, did you know that by creating scarcity and exclusivity you can boost word of mouth by making members feel like insiders?

If people get something that not everyone can get, it makes them feel special, elevating their own sense of status. And because of that, they will not only like a product or service more, they’ll go out of their way to tell others about it. Why? Because sharing their “exclusive” information with others makes them look good.

When people make a substantial effort to get something, whether it’s standing in line for hours, or spending considerable time researching on the Internet, one of the first things they tend to do is tell others. And with the ease of technology, they can do that by phone, text, email, blog, or through their social media networks.

I recently had the opportunity to hear Jonah Berger, author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, speak at TSAE’s 2013 New Ideas Conference, on the secret science of word of mouth, and how associations can create contagious content for their organizations.

In his presentation, Berger described word of mouth as an essential tool for making a good impression. In reality, it is essentially currency – social currency. Berger pointed out that just as people use money to buy products or services, they use social currency to garner positive impressions from their families, friends, and peers.

In his book Berger writes, “Contagious products and ideas are like forest fires. They can’t happen without hundreds, if not thousands, of regular Joes and Janes passing the product or message along.”

So to get people talking, associations need to offer ways for their members to acquire social currency through their member status. Give them a way to make themselves look good while promoting the association’s programs and services along the way. Berger describes three ways to do that:

  1. Find inner remarkability
  2. Leverage game mechanics
  3. Make people feel like insiders

Berger defines remarkable things as unusual, extraordinary, or worthy of notice or attention. Something can be remarkable because it is unique, unconventional, or just plain interesting. He emphasized the most important aspect of something remarkable is that it is worthy of remark.

This is where creating contagious content meets scarcity and exclusivity. When creating content – meaning programs, services, events, and even the quarterly newsletter – are members going to find it remarkable enough to want to share with others? If you are providing highly valued content it’s much easier to create scarcity and exclusivity through membership. And that doesn’t mean shutting prospects out, either. Because if what you offer is compelling enough, they will hear about it from their peers and want a “taste” which you can easily provide. This can drive the need to become a member instead of it being an afterthought.

Borrowing from the framework offered by Berger in his book, here are six key STEPPS for associations to make their ideas, products and services more contagious:

  • Social Currency: Does talking about your association and it’s work make people look good? Can you find the inner remarkable? Leverage gaming mechanics? Make members feel like insiders?
  • Triggers: Consider the context. What makes people think about your association? How can you grow the habitat and make it come to mind more often?
  • Emotion: Focus on feelings. Does talking about your association generate emotion? How can you kindle the fire? When we care we share.
  • Public: Does your association advertise itself? Can people see the work of the organization? If not, how can you make the private become public?
  • Practical Value: Does talking about your association help people help others? How can you highlight incredible value, and package your knowledge and expertise into useful information others will want to access?
  • Stories: What is your Trojan Horse? Is your association’s work embedded in a broader narrative that people will want to share? Is your story not only viral, but also valuable?

Are you ready to take the STEPPS necessary to make your association remarkable and contagious? You don’t need a Black Friday to make it happen. We’re waiting to hear somebody tell us about YOU!


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