June 27, 2013

How to Go Viral: You’ve Got to Get Emotional To Drive Social Sharing

Laughing and pointing emoticon

How Can You Make Your Content Go Viral?

First, get a cat.  The grumpier-looking the better.  A cat that looks like you stole his dinner and told him he has to take a bath to get it back.  Then . . .

We kid! (Seriously, put the cat down)

No matter your experience in social media (whether you’re a newbie or guru), you probably already know that getting content to go viral is the holy grail of content publishing.  So, what does going viral really mean anyway?  In laymen’s terms, it means having your content organically shared by a metric boatload of users. But saying your content is going to “go viral” and actually making it go viral are two completely different things.  So how do you get your content in front of this boatload?

Do you need a professional copywriter? An A-MAZE-ING graphic designer?  A full-on multi-media team featuring recording and motion-capture studios (gulp)?

Nope — though they certainly don’t hurt, all of those things are actually just tools to reach a goal. There is no one-size-fits-all secret to what makes content get shared by a metric boatload of users. The real trick to virality is understanding why people share content on social media.

Sharing Content Is An Emotional Commitment

Do people really share on social media because they need you to know that they are having a Greek omelet?  No, they are sharing that filtered-to-the-hilt pic of their omelet because they want you to know that they are the kind of person who enjoys a leisurely brunch al fresco on a nice spring day.

When it comes to sharing content on social media, people share because of how it makes them look.

A person sharing  content on social media is asking themselves “What will people think about me if I share this?

It’s the same reason people only post flattering pictures of themselves (and, arguably, why people post unflattering pictures of their friends).  It’s all about perception.  That’s not to say content quality doesn’t matter. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the age-old nursery rhyme that goes:

Lame-ity Lame content sat on a wall and . . . nothing happened. At all. Ever.

The Emotional Triggers for Sharing

What do people feel when they read, and more importantly, share your content? Have you created your content to impact certain emotional triggers? What exacty are emotional triggers anyway? Can we ask 4 questions in a row? Fear not, the answers are coming.

Simpy put, emotional triggers are the emotional responses people have to your content. It’s these triggers that cause the content reader to want to share your content.. We have identified eight emotional triggers below.

  • Humor
  • Usefulness
  • First to know
  • Knowledgeable
  • Shock value
  • Controversy
  • Need to belong
  • Fear

Let’s take a closer look at one of them – humor.

Emotional Trigger for Sharing #1: Humor – Be funny

Not knock-knock funny, but knock my socks off funny.  Make us ship-our-pants funny (Kudos K-Mart). Humor is easily the most instinctive of the emotional triggers for sharing. People want to be thought of as funny and when something triggers that emotion, the need to share is almost reflexive.

You may be thinking that your industry couldn’t possibly pull off funny, but the fact is that funny is psychographic, not demographic..  If you have a funny mindset, you can find funny anywhere. Quick example, we’re not entirely sure what an ASR 9000 is, but Cisco found a way to be funny (and timely, the video released just before Valentine’s Day) when people were talking about perfect Valentine’s Day gifts.

Don’t be afraid to be a little wacky, think sideways, and brainstorm until you’re literally scraping the bottom of the barrel – it’s those final ideas that sometimes contain the best comedy.

Phew. That’s a lot and we’re just getting started.

What’s the funniest ad or post that you’ve ever seen? We want to know! Comment below with your favorite funny ads and we promise to share our favorites.

To learn about emotional triggers #2 through #7, read on…

We Could Write an eBook About Emotional Triggers for Sharing

In fact… we have. To learn more about content tone, content style and all eight of the emotional triggers for sharing, be sure to download our just-released eBook entitled (surprisingly) How to Get More Shares on Social Media by Using Emotional Triggers.

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About the Author
Kim Cooper

Kim Cooper is Sr. Marketing Manager at Rignite. She helps businesses get better results from their social media activity. She blogs about tips, best practices, and social media success stories.

  • Gennia Holder

    I agree. Stories make an emotional connection that a sales pitch just can’t do. Look at the Superbowl commercials or Nike commercials. They tell a story and never once have they come out and asked you to buy a pair of sneakers.

    • Kim

      Great point Gennia and thanks for your comment. Nike is a great example of a brand that is wildly successful because it touches people’s emotions.