This is a guest post by JonJon Yeung,
Everyone is trying to understand the formula behind making things go viral. Jonah Berger, Associate Professor of Marketing at the University of Pennsylvania, even wrote a book about it. According to Berger, virality is neither purely skill nor purely luck – it is both an art and a science.
Six factors can lead to something going viral: social currency, triggers, emotion, publicness, practical value, and stories. We’re going to focus on emotion and how that affects virality.
Your aim should be to take something banal that is experienced across the population and present it in a way that elicits high-arousal emotions. Here are five emotions that will increase the likelihood of your content going viral – as well as the psychology behind it – that you can add to your viral marketing arsenal.
Anger occurs when people feel as though they have been offended, wronged, or denied something they believe they shouldn’t have been. The tendency is to retaliate through attaining justice – and to share the negative emotion.
Psychologists have long known that people have a tendency to share things that make them feel bad, rather than good.
Example: The video of Ugandan guerrilla leader Joseph Kony and all of the horrific things he did really pissed people off – yet at the height of its popularity, it was everywhere on the web. The video the fastest to achieve 100 million views online.
Caveat: You probably shouldn’t make your audience angry all the time, but it can work in some contexts.
Fear is one of the biggest motivators for action in human beings. It speaks to people on a primal level they can’t necessarily control because it activates the fight or flight response.
One of the ways marketers have leveraged this emotion is through what has been dubbed FOMO – fear of missing out. People inherently don’t want to be outcasts, because in prehistoric times they would have had a very low chance of survival.
Example: In their #UK2012 campaign, DKNY capitalised on the fact that people want to be where the action is. They had 50 industry influencers use the hashtag on social media to discuss the store re-opening in London. The hashtag trended on Twitter and received 12 million impressions – people from around the world wanted to be there.
Awe is something that is remarkable, defined by some psychologists as a combination of surprise and fear, typically directed at something greater than the person experiencing the emotion.
In positive psychology, the more a person experiences awe, the better well-being he or she will generally has. It’s also more likely the person will want to be involved the ‘greater good’. Awe can come from something larger-than-life, like natural beauty or accomplishment of a feat.
Example: With help from Guinness World Records, MINI made a record attempt for the tightest parallel park, involving a number of bloggers, Chinese press and other influences – they all wanted to witness history being made. When the video hit YouTube it went viral, getting more than 2.5 million views in the first week.
Make people happy, plain and simple. Generally, people don’t want to seem vapid and self-absorbed on their social media so they tend to post things that others can enjoy as well.
Give people a positive feeling and they will associate with your brand. Make your piece hilarious and people will want to share it, and every time it is shared there is an exponential increase in its viral potential.
Example: Coca-Cola created the Happiness Machine, which became a viral sensation. Watching other people being happy makes other people happy which becomes a cycle of happiness. And it’s viral marketing gold.
JonJon Yeung is a marketing executive at digital agency Tug and is a fanatic about digital marketing, exploring certain subjects in depth and preaching the importance of quality content. He regularly updates himself with the current search trends, follow him for more adventures.