6 principles of content that goes viral
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I’d like to address a few basic principles of viral attention that are going to keep coming up throughout this post. First, Dr. Jonah Berger’s 6 principles of viral sharing:
- Social Currency – People only share things because it helps them improve or maintain their social standing. It doesn’t matter how much we love a piece of content. We won’t share it if doing so doesn’t help our relationships or help us define who we are to other people.
- Triggers – Context and associations shape how likely we are to share something. Votes held in churches are more likely to be for conservative politicians. Think of peanut butter and you’ll probably think of jelly. Play French music in a grocery store and people will be more likely to buy French wine.
- Emotions – Intense emotions like fear, anger, humor, and awe beg to be shared. Disaffecting emotions, like sadness, do not. Of all emotions, awe is the most powerful. When we learn something new, or learn to see it in a different way, we are compelled to share the experience more than anything else. Humor takes the silver medal, which is of course closely related to surprise, which is closely related to awe.
- Public – This is about our inherent trust in the wisdom of the crowd. If others have taken an action, we are more likely to follow them, especially if it seems to be a crowd of like-minded people. In other words, it takes a seed of sharing activity for something to go viral.
- Practical – Content marketers already know this one. Actionable content begs to be shared.
- Stories – Humans are hard-wired to listen to and tell stories. Stories are about facing struggles and solving problems. They are purposeful, not merely descriptive. There is a reason why most people will say “what was the point?” to a Cohen brothers’ film. When we listen to stories, we expect people to struggle with problems and either succeed or fail tragically. We don’t expect a series of purposeless events.