Netroots: How to Make Your Slogans go Viral


Scout, Ph.D.
Director, The Fenway Institute’s Network for LGBT Health Equity
Reporting from Netroots Nation Conf 2012, Providence, RI

Ok, I admit, the workshop was called something totally different: Words that Work, Crafting Successful Memes — but I thought it might be good to get the jargon out for us regular folk.

So what’s a meme anyway? Why are we hearing about them all the time now? A meme is shorthand for one of those catchy viral phenomena that takes on a life of it’s own. Like… Chuck Norris jokes, planking, or the whole Occupy [blank] phenom. Catch a list of the best ones of 2011 from Know Your Meme website. If any of you are parents you’ll know that you have to have some basic knowledge of memes to understand your kids any more, or else you’ve got no idea what’s up when they keep answering “Why didn’t you do your homework?” with “YOLO”. Face it as our world gets more social online, more and more of these things are flying through our cultural consciousness.

So, this workshop was all about how to create slogans that are poised to go viral. Now, this isn’t as farfetched as it seems in public health, remember when CDC jumped on the whole zombie meme to put out tweets on how to protect yourself from zombies apocalypse with a disaster preparedness kit? They calculated this tweet generated millions of dollars in media exposure, and it was free. So jumping on these existing memes is also one way for us to ride waves already out there.

So, what’s the upshot on how to prepare slogans that are viral ready? The presenter turned us onto a great book on the subject, Words that Work. Here’s some of the key advice they give.

Words that Work: It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear

  1. Simplicity: Use small words
  2. Brevity: use short sentences
  3. Credibility as important as philosophy
  4. Consistency matters — one of our big problems, establish talking points and distribute them
  5. Novelty: offer something new
  6. Sound & texture matter
  7. Speak aspirationally
  8. Visualize — talk so people can see the outcomes
  9. Ask a question
  10. Provide context and explain relevance

Published by Dr. Scout

Vegetarian biking small town transgender father of 3 feisty teens in real life, Director of Network for LGBT Health Equity in pro life.

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