The Science Behind Viral Content: Reaching the Empowered Consumer

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Learn about viral content marketing, and more specifically the elements that lead content to be widely shared.

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  • Not all emotions are created equal. Some are better than others at improving Shares per Viewer (i). Increasing shares per viewer is the key to creating a viral effect. High arousal emotions are essential.


    In 2011, University of Pennsylvania professor, and viral content theorist Jonah Berger published a paper looking at the role of emotional arousal in sharing
    Propensity. He found a correlation not only between psychological arousal, but even physical arousal!
  • High arousal emotions spur sharing. Especially pleasant high arousal emotions. After all, we usually don’t take joy in making others feel unpleasant.

    Lets take a look at the chart…

    A potential caveat to this may be that high arousal negative content that sharers feel they are doing a social good by doing so, tend to overcome the
    Discount of not wanting to make others sad. In other words, people feel fine about making others feel sad if those they share with would have the
    Desire or ability to assist in remedying the sad content in some way. Kony for instance is a perfect example, same with the viral effects that happen
    With content around natural disasters.
  • A study of the most email content from the NYTimes site yielded some Interesting findings.

    High arousal emotions predominated. Anger is an interesting Emotion, because it isn’t positive, though there may be reasons why anger outperforms
    Other negative high arousal emotional activators.
  • Here again, a NYTimes based study reveals that Surprise and interest, two high arousal emotions predominate.
    While this talk is primarily about emotional activation, it is important to note that Practical utility is a non-emotional sharing driver that seems to
    Also be highly activating of sharing behavior.
  • These are some examples of emotional coded reactions to some of the top 50 images on imgur from last year. We asked 100 participants to identify the emotions that each image made them feel. We then mapped he responses as heatmaps over Plutchicks wheel of emotions.
  • The Science Behind Viral Content: Reaching the Empowered Consumer

    1. 1. KRISTIN TYNSKI, SVP CREATIVE AT FRACTL THE SCIENCE BEHIND VIRAL CONTENT REACHING THE EMPOWERED CONSUMER
    2. 2. My History • SVP of Fractl, a boutique content marketing agency that specializes in creating and promoting viral content. • 8 Years of viral content marketing experience • Hundreds of successful campaigns • Millions and millions of views • Over this time, I’ve been witness to a revolution in how audiences and brands interact.
    3. 3. Let’s Begin By Acknowledging the Obvious... • Marketing has fundamentally changed • Survival means understanding this change, and adapting • The good news is that opportunity is everywhere, if you know where to look
    4. 4. Today’s Consumer • 2/3 on FTC’s Do not call list (Via the FTC) • 44% of all direct mail goes directly in the trash (via the EPA) • 86% of people don’t watch television ads (Via Deloitte) • Print ad spending is at an all time low, circulation is dismal. • Today’s consumer is most reachable ONLINE
    5. 5. Where is Today’s Consumer?
    6. 6. What’s Driving the Change?
    7. 7. What’s Driving the Change?
    8. 8. The Changing Consumer • In today’s marketing world, consumers are BOMBARDED, and they are becoming increasingly allergic to old-style push marketing tactics. • Brand Loyalty can no longer be bought in the same way, it must now be EARNED.
    9. 9. The Empowered Consumer • Migrating away from old-style push marketing as they move to digital channels • Don’t want push marketing to follow them online • See push marketing as intrusive and ineffective
    10. 10. The Empowered Consumer • Over 50 Million users have installed adblock on their browsers and phones.
    11. 11. The Empowered Consumer
    12. 12. Profile of Today’s Consumer • More discerning, less trusting • More empowered/powerful • Believe marketing and advertising can and should provide value.
    13. 13. Succeeding in the New Environment
    14. 14. How is this done? BY CREATING GREAT CONTENT!!! The Solution: Provide Value, Encourage Sharing, Be Human
    15. 15. Mo Content Mo Problems
    16. 16. Rising Above If you want to rise above the glut of content, you must create something people really want to talk about and share Content that is highly shareable is called “VIRAL”
    17. 17. Viral Marketing – Don’t Try to Do it All Sales Funnel Usefulness Relative Ease Successful? Awareness Extremely High Easy All Interest High Difficult Few Evaluation High Extremely Difficult Very Few Commitment High Extremely Difficult Almost no one Referral High Extremely Difficult Some *Know your goals, and know what viral can realistically accomplish*
    18. 18. Viral Marketing – Best Fit
    19. 19. What About The Bottom of the Funnel? Branding Brand Impressions Brand Followers Brand Advocates Captive Audience Move Down the Funnel Search High Visibility Social Sharing & Links Improved Search Ranking Move Down the Funnel
    20. 20. Getting to Viral – What is True Virality? K = Ratio of the number of new viewers brought in due to the sharing of each viewer.
    21. 21. Defining Viral Factors Defining Variables Shared Audience (p) Conversion Rate (c) Shares Per Viewer (i) Total Organic Views Organic Growth Type Viral Cycle Time k = i*p*c
    22. 22. Improving the Viral Coefficient – Increasing Shared Audience Shared Audience (p) Average number of people who are exposed to the content for each share.
    23. 23. Improving the Viral Coefficient – Increasing Conversion Rate Conversion Rate (c) Percent of shared audience (p) that are exposed to the content and then actually click on it.
    24. 24. Improving the Viral Coefficient – Increasing Shares Per Viewer Shares Per Viewer (i) Percent of people who see the content that share it.
    25. 25. Do we Need Truly Viral to Find Success?
    26. 26. When the Magic Happens When you are able to get i, p, and c high enough, their product will bring k>1, and you will see a truly viral effect. Notice the exponential nature of the curve. Play with the tool featured here: http://bit.ly/1lb5crH
    27. 27. Success Even When K<1 Nearly all content considered “Viral” Doesn’t actually meet the true definition of viral growth of having a viral coefficient (k) greater than 1.
    28. 28. Getting to Viral: The Basics • Simplicity • Unexpectedness/Surprise/Interest • Concreteness • Credibility • Emotions – Most Important • Stories • Seeding (I added this one)
    29. 29. Getting to Viral: What Motivates Sharing?
    30. 30. Getting to Viral: What Motivates Sharing? Evolutionary Imperative of Inclusive Fitness – aka: Altruism Altruism - action of an individual increases the fitness of the group
    31. 31. Getting to Viral: The 5 Primary Motivators New York Times – 5 Primary Motivations for Sharing
    32. 32. Improving the Viral Coefficient – Audiences 6 Types of Sharers – Differing Primary Motivations Altruists Careerists Hipsters Boomerangs Connectors Selectives
    33. 33. Improving the Viral Coefficient – Emotions “In the language of the visual web, when we share a video or an image, we’re not just sharing the object, but we’re sharing in the emotional response it creates.” - Abigail Posner, Head of Strategic Planning & Agency Development at Google
    34. 34. Improving the Viral Coefficient – Emotions Evoking emotions is essential in viral content. Why? Because emotions themselves spread virally as an inherent part of the way our brains work, a function of mirror neurons.
    35. 35. Getting to Viral – Emotions Not all emotions are created equal. Some are better than others at improving Shares per Viewer (i). Increasing shares per viewer is the key To creating a viral effect. High arousal emotions are essential.
    36. 36. Getting to Viral – Emotions
    37. 37. Getting to Viral – Emotions
    38. 38. Getting to Viral – Emotions Surprise and Interest are the chief emotional drivers in the New York Times Study.
    39. 39. Improving the Viral Coefficient – Emotions The emotions of the top 50 viral images on Imgur.com last year.
    40. 40. What is special about the emotions of curiosity/interest and amazement/awe?
    41. 41. “By seeing the miraculous in the mundane, we’re learning to fall in love with the world again, to laugh with it, and to be fascinated by it.” The Fascinating Familiar
    42. 42. “Synapsis firing equals creative joy.” Synaptic Play
    43. 43. Improving the Viral Coefficient – Emotions Emotional arousal is created and enhanced through empathy. Empathy is created through human narratives and stories Most Common Empathy Narrative Themes: Love Loyalty Perseverance and overcoming obstacles Raw human moments Making the most out of what you have Rights of passage Heroes and selfless acts Vengeance and villains get what they deserve Injustices made right Changes of heart Human-animal bond Evolving morality Nostalgia and Reminiscing Connection to and importance of nature
    44. 44. So who is doing it well? There are some clear standouts…
    45. 45. Improving the Viral Coefficient – Emotions Leveraging Emotions - Upworthy Topical Focus: Community Diversity Economy Entertainment Gender Guns & Crime Health Immigration Inspirational LGBTQQ Military Parenting Politics Science and Tech Spanish Workonomics
    46. 46. Upworthy Who is doing it well?
    47. 47. Improving the Viral Coefficient – Emotions Leveraging Emotions - Buzzfeed Emotional Categories Lol Win Omg Cute Trashy Win Fail WTF
    48. 48. Buzzfeed Who is doing it well?
    49. 49. ViralNova Who is doing it well? This site is run by a single individual, posting emotionally resonant content each day.
    50. 50. One Guy at Gawker Who is doing it well?
    51. 51. Improving the Viral Coefficient – Emotions Leveraging Emotions – Gawker
    52. 52. Putting it Into Practice Step 1: Defining goals Step 2: Define messaging Step 3: Consider the “Made to Stick Formula” Step 4: Infuse the content you create with strong emotional hooks. Step 5: Promote and target “Big Seeds”
    53. 53. Improving the Viral Coefficient – Digital PR and Big Seeds
    54. 54. Utilize Digital PR and Big Seeds
    55. 55. Utilize Digital PR and Big Seeds
    56. 56. An Example from the Industry
    57. 57. Why did this video work? 500,000+ Views Major news pickup on The Guardian, dozens of blogs, major local media attention & syndication Emotions activated by this video, look familiar?
    58. 58. Industry Applications Ask yourself, How can I enable my customers to create content that fits the criteria discussed today?
    59. 59. Your Customers are Your Biggest Asset Think of your customers as viral content creators, and you are their director.
    60. 60. How? • Facilitate media creation and sharing on the mountain • Epic Mix does this very well
    61. 61. Find or Create a Place to Curate or Promote Created Content
    62. 62. Facilitate the Creation and Sharing of Peak Emotional Experiences on the Mountain Make your customers the stars of your own emotionally evocative productions
    63. 63. Facilitate the Creation and Sharing of Peak Emotional Experiences on the Mountain • Make your customers the stars of your own emotionally evocative productions • SnowBird Resort in Utah’s “First 50” Campaign.
    64. 64. Facilitate the Creation and Sharing of Peak Emotional Experiences on the Mountain • Make your customers the stars of your own emotionally evocative productions • Alta Ski Area in Utah’s “On the Lift Campaign”
    65. 65. Utilize the Inherent Awesomeness of the Mountain and the Industry • The mountain and the business can be the content, if you can bring it out in a viral way. • Alta Ski Area in Utah’s “On the Lift Campaign”
    66. 66. Questions? www.Frac.tl Kristin@frac.tl, VP Marketing

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