But I’m amazed how easy it is to forget this.

Advances in technology can be exciting, intoxicating, scary, and in Arthur C Clarke’s immortal phrase, “almost indistinguishable from magic”.

But what makes them powerful is the use to which they are put. For marketers and advertisers this means the intent remains paramount.

Great, you’ve realised you can use Foursquare, Twitter, mobile, whatever.

Now work out why you want to. And how. What’s the idea, and why will people care?

Two things I’ve seen lately that capture this – and they also seem to embody the content/context idea that I’ve become a bit obsessed by recently.

First, the content. Seth Godin’s most important criteria for ideas that spread.


Ideas spread when people choose to spread them. Here are some reasons why:

  1. I spread your idea because it makes me feel generous.
  2. …because I feel smart alerting others to what I discovered.
  3. …because I care about the outcome and want you (the creator of the idea) to succeed.
  4. …because I have no choice. Every time I use your product, I spread the idea (Hotmail, iPad, a tattoo).
  5. …because there’s a financial benefit directly to me (Amazon affiliates, mlm).
  6. …because it’s funny and laughing alone is no fun.
  7. …because I’m lonely and sharing an idea solves that problem, at least for a while.
  8. …because I’m angry and I want to enlist others in my outrage (or in shutting you down).
  9. …because both my friend and I will benefit if I share the idea (Groupon).
  10. …because you asked me to, and it’s hard to say no to you.
  11. …because I can use the idea to introduce people to one another, and making a match is both fun in the short run and community-building.
  12. …because your service works better if all my friends use it (email, Facebook).
  13. …because if everyone knew this idea, I’d be happier.
  14. …because your idea says something that I have trouble saying directly (AA, a blog post, a book).
  15. …because I care about someone and this idea will make them happier or healthier.
  16. …because it’s fun to make another teen snicker about prurient stuff we’re not supposed to see.
  17. …because the tribe needs to know about this if we’re going to avoid an external threat.
  18. …because the tribe needs to know about this if we’re going to maintain internal order.
  19. …because it’s my job.
  20. I spread your idea because I’m in awe of your art and the only way I can repay you is to share that art with others.”


And now for the context. An edifying reminder that people amount to just a little bit more than the datafeed you can extract from them. This is the real-life social network, from the clever people at Google.

So, despite the focus on new stuff, it’s all about understanding why people do what they do.

Same as it ever was