According To a Recent Study, the Secret To Viral Videos May Lie In Eliciting the Right Emotions.
Every savvy video marketer dreams of cracking the code, and figuring out the secret to viral videos. I mean, there’s got to be some reason why one video will get a few hundred views, and others will get millions.
I often tell my clients that thousands of videos are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and only a tiny fraction of them go viral. It’s impossible to predict.
Or at least I thought it was.
Because it turns out a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, working with Microsoft, has been studying video response using facial recognition technology.
These researchers actually tracked people’s expressions (with permission, of course) as they watched various online videos, and analyzed which videos were most likely to get shared.
Which Videos Go Viral?
According to their study, emotional reaction plays a big role in which videos get shared.
You might assume people share videos they like, but there’s more to it than that.
Yes, videos that evoke positive emotions such as joy or happiness are more likely to be shared. But some negative emotions, such as disgust, can also increase sharing.
Emotions are more complicated than just “happy” and “sad.” They can also be characterized by activation potential.
Some videos provoke us into sharing.
The Psychology of Sharing
Some experiences—and videos—fire us up more than others. When your team scores a touchdown in the final seconds, you can’t help but feel excited, and want to share that feeling with others.
But other experiences, even happy ones, may not feel as exciting. Relaxing on the beach, for example, leads to happy emotions, but not excitement (just the opposite).
And that excitement is what drives response. Positive emotions, such as happiness or joy, may make us feel good about a video or a brand, but those feelings alone are not enough.
You need activation, too.
Activation is hard to define, but it’s what really drives social sharing. Even videos that elicit negative emotions such as anger or disgust can go viral.
Take political ads, for example. People may share “feel good” messages that align with their beliefs, but they’re just as likely to share content that they disagree with.
When a politician says something that makes your blood boil, do you share it?
Obviously, how a video makes us feel is not as important as how strongly it makes us feel it.
The Secret to Viral Videos
So what does this mean for advertisers and marketers? First of all, it means it’s not enough to make people feel good about your brand.
You have to fire people up in order to drive response.
Positivity and happy thoughts are okay, but more intense emotions such as excitement and inspiration are even better.
And secondly, it means bad emotions are not always bad. If you’re shining a light on an injustice, for example, or raising awareness about the dangers of climate change, then it’s okay to make people feel angry or anxious.
Even negative emotions can be powerful and engaging, and drive shares. And that’s what viral videos are all about.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Harry Hayes is the owner and executive producer at Content Puppy Productions. Before starting his business, he spent 20+ years as an advertising writer and creative director.