I read the best explanation of what makes an idea spread in Seth Godin’s new book: Small is the New Big.

For an idea to be spread, it needs to be sent and received.

No one sends an idea unless:

  1. They understand it.

  2. They want it to spread.

  3. They believe that spreading it will enhance their power (reputation, income, friendships) or their peace of mind.

  4. The effort to send the idea is less than the benefits.

No one “gets” an idea unless:

  1. The first impression demands further investigation.

  2. They already understand the foundation ideas necessary to get the new idea.

  3. They trust or respect the sender enough to invest the time.

Notice that ideas never spread because they are important to the originator.

Notice, too, that a key element in the spreading of the idea is the capsule that contains it. If it’s easy to swallow, tempting, and complete, it’s far more likely to get a good start.

What a great test for design and marketing efforts. All you Web 2.0 entrepreneurs, hook yourself up to a polygraph and see if you pass it. And Seth, I salute you!