What Makes Online Content Go Viral?

If there is one thing every digital marketer dreams of, it is seeing his or her content go viral. Viral content captures countless eyes quickly and often results in greater recognition of the initial post as well as coverage about the original content and the company or individual that posted it. In other words, a single viral blog post or video can snowball into a national news story almost overnight, thanks to an explosion in clicks. Although viral content may seem unpredictable on the surface, a closer examination suggests that there might actually be rules that could help you capture this lightening in a bottle. Understanding the psychology of viral online content could help you build more effective digital marketing strategies.

The Psychology of Going Viral

To crack the code of viral content, scientists have turned to examining the psychology of story sharing. Although research into viral content may be relatively new, scientists can take cues from studies into other social sharing phenomena, such as the persistence of urban legends and the spreading of gossip.

With these ideas in mind, researchers set out to identify shared characteristics of content that goes viral by tracking the most shared stories from the New York Times website. As it turns out, content that is widely shared has some similar characteristics. Viral content is most likely to have these qualities:

  • It’s positive. Content that is positive in tone and that tells a feel-good story is much more likely to be shared than negative content.
  • It produces emotion. Viral content gets a reaction, whether it blows your mind or makes your heart pound.

Positive, emotional content is more likely to go viral than any other form, according to researchers. People do share negative content, however, and when they do, they share content that provokes anger much more frequently than content that triggers sadness.

Designing Viral-Ready Content

This knowledge about the psychology of viral content is invaluable when creating digital marketing campaigns. Content that emotionally engages the audience and exudes positivity gives your marketing efforts more bang, because it is more likely to be shared. Your audience members then become built-in influencers for your brand, as they share you content across the web.

At Pennington Creative, we understand the characteristics of contagious content and can apply these viral strategies to your campaign, making your marketing dollars stretch further. Contact us today to find out how our digital marketing team can build an industry-specific plan for your brand.

About the Author

Heather - Digital Marketing Specialist, Copywriting
Heather McDonald

Digital Marketing Specialist, Copywriting

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