STEPPS content create

How do you create engaging content to go viral on social media? Wharton Business School Professor Jonah Beger created a framework to guide in this process. The framework is called STEPPS, which is outlined below:

Social Currency


  • Purchase = Exchange of money for goods
  • Purchase = Desired information for Belonging/Unique

3 ways to achieve this

  1. Remarkable
    • Identify what’s remarkable about your brand that will make someone look good if they shared it
  2. Game mechanics
    • Social media is game mechanics – always looking to see how many likes we get
    • Angry Birds
  3. Make people feel like insiders
    • Make them feel like an insider
    • Provide insider information


  • Play on what’s top of mind
  • Formula: When I think of X, I am reminded of Y

Two ways to accomplish this:

  1. Play on pop culture or current events
  2. Create a name association
    • When people think of your brand, what do you want them to think about?
    • In order to develop a true name association, the following must occur:
      • The association must be believable in the mind of your consumer. Ex: McDonald’s is not going to create a brand association that they are the healthy choice
      • The association must be CLEARLY front and center in the campaign
      • Heavy consistency and branding is needed for the association to stick
    • Kit Kat “Break” Campaign


When we care we share

  • Share content that is congruent with the emotions of your target market
  • This will heavily rely on the motivations of belonging, individualistic, and altruistic
  • Examples of some emotions can include:
    • Nostalgia
    • Inspiration
    • Compassion
    • Love
    • Justice/Injustice
    • Humor


  • People will copy what others are doing
  • This will create social proof
  • How can you encourage other people engaging your brand in public?

2 ways in the context of social media

  1. User Generated Content
  2. Hashtags


  • People will engage with useful information that is simple and practical

Ways to do this

  1. First, identify information your consumer wants to know (the key is they must WANT to have it)
    • How to achieve a goal
    • How to overcome a problem (Hennig-Thurau et al., 2004
  2. Provide this information in a format that is simple and easy to understand
    1. How to guides
    2. Cheat sheets
    3. Webinars
    4. Instructional videos
    5. Podcasts




It is human nature to process information through narratives, not a list of facts. When brands tell stories, it humanizes a brand and makes it relatable. Stories of people using a product, testimonials, and personal stories of triumph all increase the virality of content.

3 Essential Elements of Story Telling


  • List the characters who are involved in the story
  • Describe their personas
  • Make the audience empathize with their wants, needs, joys and problems and relate to audience
  • Conflict
    • Builds emotional dynamic
    • No conflict – then it’s a sales pitch
    • Be genuine, not over the top
    • Should be in line w prospect’s needs, wants, problems
  • Resolution
    • Display the victory
    • Call to action
    • Next steps