Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Tim Tyler: Zarrella, Zarrella's Hierarchy of Contagiousness (review)


Hi. I'm Tim Tyler, and this is a review of this book:

Zarrella's Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas by Dan Zarrella

Dan Zarrella's an internet marketing Guru. He's researched internet marketing and social media, and has some ideas about what makes things go viral. Some of them are encapsulated in this book.

The book is very small and very short. Much of it was previously posted on Dan's web site. However a small book-shaped package is a convenient format. Dan says the bunnies on the front represent rapidly-reproducing ideas.

Dan uses memetics, cites Richard Dawkins and says:

Our world is made of memes. If you've ever seen the matrix movies, You'll remember their world was composed entirely of computer code. Everything people interacted with was built from computerized instructions. Similarly, our world is made of contagious ideas. Everything made by huamns - from the chair you're sitting on, to the book you're reading - exists only because someone had the idea to invent it and that idea caught on, spreading from person to person.
It's a memorable image: our world is indeed made of memes.

The book is full of social media marketing tips of the type Dan posts on his blog. It's full of graphs and charts telling you what and when to tweet for the best results.

There was one bit of the book which I really didn't like - where Dan defined a measure of the rate of increase of memetic infections per generation, claimed that trying for an explosive epidemic was unrealistic and then recommended using big seeds.

Dan doesn't seem to think small seeds are effective. It is true that you should spend some of your marketing budget on seeding your idea. However making your idea spreadable is really very important. Dan says that when you do get a viral idea, it's just a fluke, and you shouldn't build your marketing strategy on luck. But relying on big seeds is not really correct advice in general. Pop songs may not reach every single member of the population before dying away, but they do reach many millions and that's good enough for their composers.

Some do have to rely on big seeds, since they have content that requires it - but most should try and use highly-contagious memes in their marketing, for best effect.

Dan advocates a science of marketing. However, few marketers do very much science, since they often don't want to publish their raw data, and they often don't trust what other marketers say. It's probably more realistic to advise marketers to cherry pick the best bits from the scientific method - such as iterating the process of performing experiments, measuring their outcomes and making changes. Maybe it's best to regard marketing as a technology - rather than a science.

The book is pretty neat. It is short, readable and fun. Most readers will probably be hungry for more details, but at least this is a start.


1 comment:

  1. “Most readers will probably be hungry for more details, but at least this is a start.”

    I guess this book is a seed.

    I'd rather learn about memes from somebody with an academic or humane interest than from somebody who is a marketing expert. I have no doubt that some marketing experts know their stuff but as you noted, “they often don't want to publish their raw data.”

    When it comes to learning about things, I consider the source of the information. This isn't a black-and-white thing, but let's just say I'd rather learn about evolution from Richard Dawkins than the Pope.