Why are certain pieces of online content more viral than others? That’s what Jonah Berger’s and Katherine L. Milkman’s recently released research shows us.
The research pair looked at data from all New York Times articles published over a three-month period and how emotion shapes virality. Most striking? POSITIVE CONTENT IS MORE VIRAL THAN NEGATIVE CONTENT. It’s not a coincidence that over the years I’ve been more likely to share content like JK Wedding Dance Entrance versus something depressing or overall negative. Looks like I’m not alone, although content that provokes negative emotion is still more viral than content that provokes sadness.
In fact, Berger and Milkman specifically mention that:
Content that evokes high-arousal positive (awe) or negative (anger or anxiety) emotions is more viral. Content that evokes low-arousal, or deactivating, emotions (e.g., sadness) is less viral.
Marketers should try to evoke the three A’s: Awe, Anger and Anxiety: “Content that evokes high arousal emotions, regardless of their valiance, is more viral.”
Their 15-page research piece in the Journal of Marketing Research ultimately shows why people share content and how to design more effective viral marketing campaigns. To get the upper hand on your competitors, you should read it in its entirety.
FAVE READER QUESTION: What’s your fave viral content of all time?
Jonah Berger is Joseph G. Campbell Assistant Professor of Marketing (e-mail: email@example.com), and Katherine L. Milkman is Assistant Professor of Operations and Information Management (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org), the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.