24 February 2014

Going viral: what makes people share content via social media?

I've noticed recently that everyone seems to be talking about making content 'go viral', as if there is a magic lever you can pull that will...*poof!* make your content spread like wildfire across the internet. Unfortunately, there isn't a magic formula or 'Viral content for Dummies' book out there (actually is there? must check amazon) and if there was I'm sure Zuckerberg would have tried to buy it for oh let's say, 13 billion by now?

Content goes 'viral' when it is shared in quick succession by a large group of people, then their friends share it, and their friends....and their friends...and their - you get the picture!

Although there isn't a sure fire way to tell which content will be widely shared or not, I've had a think about it and I think there are things that a piece of content should do, or make people feel to allow it to be worthy of a share/RT in their opinion. 

Shock people

Shocking content can be something that surprises them, baffles them or just simply makes them sharply intake breath then let out an "Ohmigoddddddd" "Can you believe this??" "This is crazy!"

Content like this is most likely to be created organically (happen on it's own) but if you can be there to capture moments on video or camera then you're onto a winner. Just like the CCTV camera that caught this bear scoping out unsuspecting Scottish couple Bob & Irene in California...

Make them laugh

From what I've seen, positive content tends to get shared more than negative content online and what better way to make someone feel positive than to make them laugh? Funny content might not be for everyone, depending on what industry you're in - but for the majority of businesses I'd say it's a good idea to let your metaphorical hair down and test the comedy waters*.

* Good writers/content producers essential. You don't want to seem too try-hard and be like the weird uncle at a family party cracking out the obscure jokes that nobody gets. 

Making me chuckle recently is the Cadbury Creme Egg Facebook page...

Activate their FOMO (Fear of missing out)

"Have you seen this???"

Us humanoids are naturally curious and when we hear whisperings of something that's going on in the internet, we're more than likely to seek it out so we can see it/watch it and be able to join in the conversations with everyone else. We'll also then feel inclined to share the content to show that we're part of the gang. 

It also helps if the content is hard to find or even banned. When someone tells you NOT to think of a black cat, what do you think about? And when someone tells you that no matter what, you must NOT look inside the box - what can't you stop thinking about doing? ...and when you hear that something is banned on the internet then by-jolly you're going to find it! 

Admit it...you searched for Scarlett Johansson's banned superbowl ad didn't you? (along with about 13 million other viewers)

Relate to them

My Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds are becoming overrun with the relate-able graphics known as memes. People seem almost unable to control themselves when it comes to sharing these graphics, as they allow them to show that they relate with the content in an 'I agree with that', 'I do that too!' way without having to actually say it. Take this one for example, you're having a crappy day and don't really want to be seen to be moaning about it... just click 'share' show that you concur with the populous in 'Monday hating' without coming across as too negative or a bit of a grumpy guts.

Connect emotionally 

Content that connects emotionally with someone is always going to perform well as it's another way for people to relate to the content. By 'connect emotionally' I mean content that has been produced with a certain mood or feeling in mind that will elicit emotions from people or mirror what they are already feeling which will in turn lead them to engage with, or share the content. On the most basic levels, this could be split into four categories:

Happy - share because the content makes you feel good, laugh, feel positive vibes.
Supportive/Proud - share to show your support for a cause, person or organisation.
Sad - share to raise awareness of a cause, event, show you empathise.  
Angry - share to get reaction, generate conversation, protest.

Give them useful information

Lastly, people will be inclined to share content they feel will be useful to others - such as an interesting article, informative graphic or demonstrative video. If you know your business/industry then this type of content should be one of the most accessible to produce. Work in beauty? produce make-up tutorial videos using your products. Work in DIY? produce an info-graphic on how to tile a bathroom (can you tell I don't do DIY??)

Just think, how can you teach people something new?

I'd love to hear any of your thoughts on why you share content, or if you've found any good examples of viral content you couldn't resist sharing!

Thanks for reading, Melissa x

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