VIRAL MARKETING

18 Emotions at the Root of Viral Video Psychology

When viral videos go crazy, it's usually because they tap some fundamental human emotions among viewers.
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A viral video--one that's seen and shared by a lot of people in a short amount of time--can significantly bolster your brand. But just how do you get people to watch and pass on your content like crazy?

Take some advice from Unruly, a marketing technology company that specializes in getting branded videos watched, tracked, and shared. According to Devra Prywes, VP of marketing and insight for Unruly, there are several things you can do to increase your chances of putting out a wildly popular viral video.

Create quality content that elicits a strong emotional response.

Prywes says people upload 100 hours of content to YouTube every minute but of all the videos on the platform 50 percent are seen by fewer than 1,000 people and only 0.06 percent actually have more than a million views. To break into the latter group she says you need to create quality content that triggers a strong response from the emotional, cognitive or primal areas of the brain.

Specifically, Unruly has determined 18 psychological responses you should aim for, although Prywes warns the positive emotions are most effective at driving social sharing:

  1. happiness
  2. exhilaration
  3. amazement
  4. inspiration
  5. hilarity
  6. contempt
  7. disgust
  8. sadness
  9. warmth
  10. pride
  11. nostalgia
  12. surprise
  13. knowledge
  14. shock
  15. confusion
  16. arousal
  17. fear
  18. anger

"Emotional content is really content that connects with the viewer," she says. "They have to feel something really strongly because you have to own a share. People have to stop what they're doing and just be compelled to share this content with either close friends or more broadly with their entire Facebook network."

Play up social motivations.

Unruly has also determined 10 main reasons people share videos with others:

  • To connect with friends about a shared passion or interest.
  • To help socialize with friends offline.
  • The sharer believes the product or service could be useful to friends.
  • The video promotes a good cause.
  • It's about a current trend or event.
  • It demonstrates the sharer's knowledge and authority about a subject.
  • The sharer wants to be the first to tell friends about a subject.
  • To start an online conversation.
  • Because the video says something about the sharer.
  • To see what friends think.

"When we test our videos some videos will elicit one social motivation really strong," Prywes says. "People will share to get a reaction from people but we recommend that advertisers really layer these on. You can think of it as hedging your bets, giving yourself a plan B, C, D, and E... so the more social motivations you can layer on as to why people might want to share your content, the more likelihood you have to drive shares that way."

Have a smart distribution plan.

Prywes says it's important to understand something called the "Social Diffusion Curve," which Unruly discovered after studying the day-by-day shares of 200 top-performing videos across the social Web. It turns out the first three days after a video is posted are critical to a campaign's short- and long-term success, with the second day after launch when videos typically get the most shares.

"So what that means is however you launch your content it's really important to distribute it heavily upfront, to really front load that campaign because that initial first three days are crucial," she says. "If you can make sure you're getting the video seen by a wide audience and shared by that audience really quickly upfront that will affect the entire short-term and long-term success of the campaign because we're dealing in percentages here."

It's also important to optimize the player in which a video resides according to which platforms your target demographic uses. For example, if your target demographic is tech-savvy men ages 18 to 34 it would make a lot of sense to include a Reddit button along with your video since that's where these people tend to spend a lot of time.

Last updated: Apr 28, 2014




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