Emotional = Viral

A few times in the last month I have been asked by clients how to make their content “go viral”. We’ve chatted about it before, but this particular request continues to present itself. So, I wanted to share with you some fascinating research I came across recently that sheds some light on this phenomenon.

In an article published by Wired in 2011, assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School Jonah Berger outlines why people share content, particularly videos. Answer? Emotions:

“When we watch [a viral video], we briefly enter into a state of “high arousal,” as the autonomic nervous system mirrors the flurry of feelings on-screen. Our heart rate increases and sweat glands open; the body prepares for action. These are the same physical changes that occur when we encounter any strongly emotional content, from a scary movie to a sappy love poem.”

When we get emotional, Berger has found that we share. This is due to a deep seeded psychological need to communicate emotions. As Berger puts it: “If I’m angry, and then you get angry, we can bond over what we’re feeling.”

As the Web gets even more crowded, this research is as relevant as it ever was. Going viral is always a laudable goal, but to do so, the right elements need to be in place to feed that psychological need identified by Berger. Think emotions, not information.

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