What Goes Viral and Why

Learn the Keys to Making Your Content Go Viral

Research Reveals What Content Generates Conversations

Every brand strives for “going viral”.  Problem is a lot of what goes viral in Social Media today is not brand appropriate or brand relevant.  The first step to unlocking viralness is finding out what drives conversations and sharing on the Internet.

Insight  ⇒  Hitting the Right Emotional Chord is the Key

In 2011 Berger & Milkman did a study at Wharton to find the drivers of social transmission.  Essentially pinpointing what type of content goes viral and generates conversations.  Here are the key findings


  • Certain emotions drive social transmission more than others
      • Awe, anger or anxiety characterized by high arousal and activation is more viral
      • Low anger or anxiety emotions characterized by high arousal and activation is more viral
  • Positive content is more viral than negative content
      • The more positive the content, the more likely it is to become viral
  • Content with inherent value or high utility also drives sharing
      • Coupon, tips on money savings and living better
      • Practical content that portrays the person sharing as knowledgeable or altruistic
  • High emotional content drives viral
      • Emotionally charged content that helps people make sense of their experiences, reduces dissonance or deepens social connections … extreme satisfaction or dissatisfaction gets shared more often

Insight  ⇒  Outrageous,  Brand Fail, Relevant and Fun Work Well

richard sherman

no brand authority

relevant fun

Do This  ⇒  Design Content With Emotional Cues to Go Viral

  • Design content to evoke high emotionally positive response
  • Keep content simple, interactive and fresh
  • Stay within your brand authority
  • Make some of your own news

Not That  ⇒  Stop Publishing Banal, Repurposed Content That Goes Unnoticed

  • Brands struggle as publishers … fresh, exciting content is difficult to produce on an ongoing basis
    • Constantly piggybacking on everyone else’s news does not generate word-of-mouth
    • Creating content that ties into your target market interests that has no brand relevancy fails at connecting emotionally to your audience
    • Your Social Media team needs to understand consumer behavior and how your buyers move through their path-to-purchase.  Just because they are young and understand Social Media it is not enough to generate conversations that go viral


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