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Thoughts on "The Emotional Drivers of Highly Successful Viral Content"
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Thoughts on "The Emotional Drivers of Highly Successful Viral Content"


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Thoughts on viral content and how to leverage stories to create it. View original webinar at

Thoughts on viral content and how to leverage stories to create it. View original webinar at

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  • 1. “The Emotional Drivers of Highly Successful Viral Content” Thoughts on presentation from Moz. Original webinar available at
  • 2. What is “Viral” content? ● K = P*C*I ○ Shared audience (P) - Avg. # of people exposed to each piece of content per share (impressions) ○ Conversion rate (C) - % of people who see and click ○ Shares per viewer (I) - % of people who see, click, and share ● Almost nothing called “viral” actually is — doesn’t mean it’s not successful
  • 3. Shared audience (P) ● The bigger this initial #, the better ● “Big seeds” ○ Popular/niche blogs, mainstream news outlets ○ Must combine info you think will go viral w/content outlets see trending in their communities and consider worthwhile
  • 4. Conversion rate (C) ● Title is single biggest factor in improving C ○ Point out knowledge gap ○ Don’t give away punchline ○ Don’t overhype ○ A/B test multiple headlines ● Thumbnail is second biggest factor ○ Create a feeling of interest/intrigue ○ A/B test different images
  • 5. Shares per viewer (I) ● ● The more shares the better Types of sharers ○ Altruists - Helpful, thoughtful, reliable, connected; want to help by sharing (FB, email) ○ Careerists - Business sharers; consider how sharing will impact their careers (LinkedIn) ○ Hipsters - More concerned w/how sharing influences how they are seen (FB, Twitter) ○ Boomerangs - Share to get reaction/feel validated; thrive on how content can spur conversation/make connections (FB, Twitter) ○ Connectors - Creative, relaxed, thoughtful; sharing based on curating helpful things; share content that is practically useful (FB, email) ○ Selectives - Resourceful, careful, thoughtful; informative/practical sharers (email)
  • 6. Broad vs. niche audiences ● Niche content more likely to go viral - Audience closely connected, shared values and interests ● Broad content - Lower barriers to sharing and “big seeds” more easily leveraged, but must be incredibly broad
  • 7. Audience type/accountability affects sharing ● ● ● ● ● Anonymous - No harm in sharing, no repercussions (4chan) Accountable - Share content that reflects neutrally/well, feel audience will find valuable; stand to gain and lose a lot (FB, why NSFW doesn’t go viral) Casual - Fewer restrictions beyond how content reflects on them, lower risk when things reflect badly Professional - More and higher risks Broad (or large cohesive niche) and accountable is a good target for viral content ○ FB as example - Large, casual audience, less business-focused, P and C are higher because of larger # of friends and shared interests
  • 8. Evoking emotions is essential ● Emotions spread virally as an inherent part of the way our brains work (mirror neurons). ● Can be transferred through images and video as easily as from person to person ● High arousal — esp. pleasant — emotions spur more sharing ○ Astonishment, excitement, delight, pleased, amused, happy, excited ○ Cat images explained! ● And what evokes emotions?
  • 9. Stories! ● Emotional arousal created/enhanced through empathy, which itself is created through narratives and stories — the better the story, the more it will spread ○ Love, loyalty, overcoming obstacles, raw human moments, rights of passage, injustices made right, heroes/selfless acts, human-animal bond, nostalgia/reminiscing ● “Emotion stacking” - Build emotions with a series of pieces, esp. in story form (Buzzfeed)
  • 10. Other motivations for sharing ● ● ● ● ● Bring valuable, entertaining content to others Define ourselves to others Grow and nourish relationships Self-fulfillment Get the word out about causes or brands
  • 11. Viral content & the sales funnel ● Best at generating awareness and interest ● Can be helpful lower in the funnel, but is more difficult ○ Branding influence (impressions, followers, advocates) ○ Search influence (visibility, social sharing, improved search ranking)
  • 12. Personal thoughts ● I think it’s weird that so much math and research goes into making and sharing something that needs to be felt in the soul in order to be successful. ● For companies, requires more strategy and research than dumb luck (“Double Rainbow”) ● I wish other content I’ve seen on “making viral content” would focus more on storytelling than on the $