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Unearthing the truth

about why content is

shared on the


What do you guess are the motives and what emotions In any case, their study was exemplary proof that
lead to particularly high sharing rates? New findings in strongly positive activating contents are shared on an
brain research (neuro-marketing) show what happens in average of 30% more often than those that cause neg-
the brain when content is shared online, offering good ative reactions. So, the viral success of content is high-
starting points to make Internet content targeted and ly dependent on its emotional impact.
virally efficient.
But now the question is, what specific emotions trigger
What happens cerebrally when sharing content? a particularly strong stimulus for sharing content? Is it
humor, surprise, or rather fear and horror?
It is not pure altruism that induces users to share certain
content on the Internet with other people. The strongest Far from it. ...
motive is rather the very selfish act of self-gratification.
The reward value is to be compared with others and to "Exhilaration" is the key to high sharing rates
create and receive a corresponding social status by
playing to the gallery as a transmitter of new, interesting Everybody knows by now the ‘Gangnam Style’ which
and innovative content. Of course, the same goes for remains one of the most viewed viral videos of all time.
sharing content on Facebook, or tweeting and re- But as The Drum reported, “its global success was not
tweeting on Twitter as well.
the work of random chance, but the careful manufac-
ture of content married to rigid research, careful seed-
What kind of content gets shared the most? ing and artfully plotted strategy.”

Jonah Berger and Katherine Milkman, for instance, ex- Karen Nelson-Field, a Senior Research Associate with
amined in their paper “What Makes Online Content Vi- the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute at the University of South
ral?”, how emotions shape virality. Impressively, their Australia, decided to dig deeper on this and wanted to
findings managed to shed light on why people share find out what makes a video go viral.
content and how to design more effective viral market-
ing campaigns.
According to her research, “getting big is largely about
getting seen, and in order to be seen by many, the dis-
Their results indicate that positive content is more viral tribution must be optimized, as paid media alone will
than negative content, but the relationship between not result in huge reach”, she states.
emotion and social transmission is more complex than
the level of value alone. In fact, the duo revealed that Her current research focuses on whether existing em-
virality is partially driven by physiological arousal:
pirical generalizations in advertising and buyer behav-
ior still hold in the new media context. It takes a close
 Content that evokes high-arousal positive (awe) or look at social media marketing, content marketing and
negative (anger or anxiety) emotions is more viral. video sharing.
 Content that evokes low-arousal, or deactivating,
emotions (e.g., sadness) is less viral. She came to the conclusion that “videos of sneezing
panda cubs, or Charlie biting his brother’s finger, can
These results held true, even when the authors con- achieve enviable share on purely organic terms, but
trolled the level of how surprising, interesting or practi- the Holy Grail of marketing at the moment is to be
cally useful the content is (all of which are positively found in achieving the perfect sharing formula by de-
linked to virality), as well as external drivers of attention sign.”
(e.g., how prominently content was featured).
Her team at South Australia’s Ehrenberg-Bass Institute
Experimental results further demonstrated the causal believes however that they have found that ‘perfect
impact of specific emotion on transmission and illustrat- formula’, suggesting: “Content creators should aim to
ed that it is driven by the level of activation induced. increase the emotional appeal of their videos, with less

emphasis and fewer restrictions on the creative devic-
es they use.
6 Asian eMarketing August 2014 - Content Marketing
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