How to Spread Your Ideas Like a Virus

    spread your ideas - light bulb

    Blogs are about ideas, and the best blogs are have ideas that are worth repeating and spreading.

    That’s how they do so well — the power of their ideas attracts people to them, and the ideas spread widely, attracting even more readers.

    Sure, it’s nice when a blog is beautifully written, exciting, controversial … but without powerful ideas, a blog is empty, and will only go so far.

    So how do you create ideas that are powerful enough to be spread on their own? How does this idea get spread out? Some ideas:

    1. Be an observer. Observe life, trends, the secrets behind events and successful people. Try to figure out the “why” not just the “what”.

    2. Find the game changers. What ideas can you think of that will change the world, or at least a part of it? Think of some of the major ideas that have changed the world: from Darwin’s evolution to Marx’s communism to Gandhi’s non-violence to Jesus’ message of love (to name but a few big examples). You don’t need to think that big, of course, but the key is to think of something that will change the world in some small way — even if it’s just the world around you, that you operate in.

    3. Be bold. Wishy washy doesn’t cut it in the world of ideas. The best ideas are ones that are stated positively and strongly. They tend to resonate well. However …

    4. Be open to change. Ideas are meant to be tested and explored, and if they work, they will go on to be adopted more widely. If they fail, you have to drop them or you’ll cause harm by trying to stick with an idea that is wrong. So test out every idea, and if it works, show proof.

    5. Be short. People like a quick read. Don’t go on forever. Small messages are also easier to pass on.

    6. Hit it from other angles. State the idea in small doses, hitting it from different angles, adding to the idea in short bursts.

    7. Be exciting. Your idea can be important but kinda boring. If people get excited about something, they’ll pass it on, and soon your idea spreads like wildfire.

    8. Make it easy for others to spread your idea. You want other people to share your idea. So encourage them to spread it via their blog, email, or social media. Put it in a format that’s easy to share. Make it something that will help their readers or friends.

    9. Be in more than one place. An idea doesn’t necessarily spread by itself, if you don’t already have a huge name. If you’re President Obama, you can just say a few words and they’ll spread instantly … but if you’re not a recognized name, you may have to do a little more work. Repeat your ideas on different blogs so that others can have a chance to get excited by the ideas and spread them themselves.


    About the author

      Leo Babauta

      Leo Babauta is the blogger behind the superblog, Zen Habits, which is about finding simplicity in the daily chaos of life.

    • Excellent post. I read somewhere

      If you have one coin and I have one, we share, we have one coin each.
      If you have one idea and I have one, we share, we have two ideas each.


      Santosh Puthran

    • Great post Leo! Your articles on both of your blogs are excellent. I’m amazed at your ability to do it again and again!

      On the original ideas topic – of course there are original ideas. This is logically derived if you just extend back to the beginning of man’s ideas. I would like to hear an argument that could refute that. However, there are almost no new ideas that aren’t dependent upon previous ideas. Einstein could not have formulated his ideas had he been born on a an uninhabited island and been raised by local apes. He stood on the shoulders of many giants before him. Original ideas may be a fusing of existing ideas with or without something brand new being added to them.

    • J.D. Meier says:

      I think your be in more than one place is key.

      Key messages show up in multiple places for the day (Oprah, the Today Show, newspaper headlines … etc.).

      I’ve also noticed many of the most successful bloggers show up on multiple blogs.

    • Gennaro says:

      There is nothing more moving and powerful than an idea. Those who can harness that power and communicate that idea can make real change (hopefully positive). Blogging is definately an excellent tool to share, but there is also a lot of competition. Though I prefer to see it as a non-zero sum world.

    • Point 5 summarises it all. Yeah, cos’ I’m one of those who likes a quick read. Haha.

    • Frances says:

      This is a great post. I’m just launching my blog and I have a handful of posts that need rewriting before they’re up, so it’s perfect timing for me. I’m sure I’ll come back to this post again and again.

    • Claudio says:

      Yes, I would have to agree that even great innovators root their thought process or are inspired by someone else. None of us live in a creative or social vacuum… Thanks for elaborating Leo, really good post!

      Mary, I think the idea for the retreat is fabulous, it sounds socially flexible and technically simple to participate from a user standpoint.
      There is a lot you could do with that concept!
      Thanks for your comment on my comments.

      Take care

    • Seth Godin has some excellent thoughts on spreading ideas – his first book (also available free as an ebook on his site) the ideavirus is required reading.

      I’m paraphrasing him here, but I would add:

      10. Be useful – You idea must have others in mind in order to spread effectively.


    • Logan says:

      Leo, that’s really the point! It’s about a new idea, a new perspective of something. And this by itself might be controversal. But not with the intention to be controversal but just to spread a new idea!

    • varinder says:


      Nice one. I liked, “be an observer.” The power of observation is stepping stone to success. Don’t do anything, just be alert and observe people what they do.

    • Leo Babauta says:

      @Claudio: I guess it depends on how you define “original”. I think you can always look at a new idea and see how it had its roots in something else.

      The people you mentioned were definitely geniuses, and their ideas were great. However: Disney didn’t invent animation or the stories he told, he just took them and did new things with them … Ford took other inventions and improved on them … so did Edison, with the lightbulb, phonograph, electricity, etc.

      I’m not denying they were great people with amazing ideas … I just think they took other great ideas and fused them, mixed them, built upon them, looked at them in new ways, to create new and amazing things.

    • Love this article, Leo!
      It’s made me reconsider a couple of articles I’m writing.

      As to Claudio…he won “Best Commenter” over at GoodlifeZEN in December. His thoughtful comments triggered a couple of new posts that are now in my pipeline.

      Hi Claudio!
      It’s an interesting question about how new ideas come about. I’m involved in innovation at the moment: I’m developing a new concept of ‘virtual Zen retreats’. The idea was born out of need. That is, I have some students who live overseas, or are young parents, or are dead broke and can’t travel in order to participate in a traditional retreat. So I needed to find a way for people like them to refresh and deepen their spirituality – without having to leave home.

      My point: need is a strong driver for innovation.

    • There would have to be some original ideas, no?

      Walt Disney, Ford, I’m sure Edison had at least a couple…Buckmister…
      Even the square wheel was original at some point.

      I agree though that apps of old ideas in new ways not only could change things but make those ideas seem novel when they are really not.

    • Leo Babauta says:

      @Claudio: I’m not sure if there are ever original ideas … most ideas that seem profoundly original are just old ideas applied in a new way, although by doing this a new idea is created, and by using this new idea in other ways, even more new ideas are created, and so on. We’re all building upon the ideas of others, and in this way they evolve.

      That said, some applications of old ideas in new ways can really change everything. 🙂

    • Leo,

      Do you ever wonder where ideas come from? Original ones….
      I often wonder if they are just a product of chemical reactions in our brain given the right stimuli, but that would be too dialectic right?

      If they come from our minds, are they messages? if they are messages, then from whom or what?

      Even our brightest scientists and artists are known to have created an idea based on someone else’s inspiration. Ideas are influential and as such, a powerful and moving force.

      But here is the thing, I’ve noticed that our best ideas come from living a moment of deep inspiration, a moment for a cause, at times bigger than our selves but yet tailored to our own circumstances or at times someone else’s.

      I know this was a little off topic, is just than when you wrote:


      it just triggered that kind of tangent…

      Great points on developing motion for those ideas though!

      Ironic that at times we need ideas to spread more ideas. Good post!

      Take care!

    • Jaimie says:

      Great post! Packed with all the tidbits I need to help give my own blog a boost.

    • All great tips and there is nothing I can add. I do like your emphasis on ideas. That’s what it’s all about.

    • Awesome. Simple but effective ways to spread our ideas. I like it!

    • Ian Harris says:

      Excellent post. I find that the only times I get any replies are when I say things that are at the edge or over-the-top. I’m now going to work on looking at things from different angles.

    • e3941297e17226345b367b4f61e62e3e98e44947f806b5be70