29Dec

Posted: 29 Dec 2014 Contributor: Sushil Kumar

Why Content Goes Viral and How It Applies To Marketing

viral content infographic

It is widely known that Facebook and other social sharing sites often offer payment for posted content that manages to exceed a certain level of viewership. Just how much is offered is kept tightly under wraps, but the allure of submitting viral content remains. For one thing, money is money. No matter how much you get, it’s still worth receiving. There are many other factors however, like the opportunity for individual stardom or the ability to draw attention to a business, group or cause that has many people contemplating how they can produce the next great viral video, picture or personality.

There is an inundation of tips and tricks across the web that aim to increase your chances to viral your content. Advice like, ‘keep it short’ and ‘center your content around popular current events’ is honestly very true and helpful. One thing that’s for certain though, is that there is no exact methodology to viral; there is no comprehensive how-to manual that can guarantee your success. At times, the most popular content seems completely random (Nyan Cat, we’re looking at you). So instead of wondering how to make a viral video, perhaps the question we should be asking is what is it about a viral video that makes it so appealing to so many?

Jonah Berger is a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He is an expert on word of mouth, viral marketing, social influence, social contagion, and trends.. When he began his research fifteen years ago, he, like many others would have, assumed that the driving force behind viral would be the desire to share practical information- articles and videos which delivered recipes and schematics for instance. What he and everyone else has witnessed however, is that the most shared content usually has no educational value whatsoever. Instead, it is the often the frivolous which circulates it’s way to fame.

Why?  What he has found is no drastic revelation. In fact, it may seem like common knowledge. But the truth is that this ‘obvious’ factor has much more to it than meets the eye. Are you ready for it? Brace yourself.

Humans are emotional beings, hardwired to share our feelings with others. As a species, we are highly sociable by instinct, prone to developing bonds and feelings of camaraderie through mutual emotional experiences. In a nutshell, what we want to share above all, is our own feelings.

Supplementing that natural desire is even more biology. Fundamentally, our nervous systems are programmed to mirror what we are seeing. This means that when we view and experience content that triggers funny, scary, sad or any other intense emotions, our bodies respond in kind, physically preparing us to react to our feelings. Our heartbeat quickens and sweat glands open, readying us for action. Because we are in a state of what Mr. Berger refers to as ‘high arousal’, we are much more inclined to tangibly respond to content in really the only way we can- sharing, upvoting or commenting- three quintessential ingredients for viral content.

So whether you are planning your next Vine or marketing campaign, ask yourself- does my content invoke strong emotion? Because lets be honest, a recipe will never make you cry and a schematic cannot make you joyfully laugh. All shared content is done with the intention of reaching an audience. Take a cue from science- your best bet is to cleverly leverage the shared human experience of emotions.

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