I’ve been thinking viral this week.
No, not H1N1, but viral as in the Internet. I was inspired by one of my favorite social media columnists, Jeff Bullas, and an article he wrote called “6 Emotions You Need to Create to Go Viral on Social Media.” In it, Jeff talks about how “viral” is the golden goose that everybody in social media wants to achieve, and yet inexplicably is so elusive. He describes 6 emotions (uncovered in a recent study) which cause people to respond and share:
1. Awe (as in awe-inspiring)
Jeff doesn’t claim these are the only emotions that work… but they were highlighted in the study. I expected to see “humor” on this list. However, there are plenty of funny videos or stories that never go viral. So today, I wanted to analyze a few items that have gone viral lately, and see where they fit into this formula.
First, with over 8 million hits, is the baby laughing at his father tearing up a rejection letter:
Go on, I dare you not to laugh (hint, it’s not possible)! My husband and I have long felt the greatest sound in the world is a baby laughing… especially a really good chuckle like this. So where does this video fit into Jeff’s formula up above? I think this one fits into the “Surprise” category. After all, who’s honestly expecting that delicious sound to come out of Baby Micah? I also think this might fit into “Awe”, although based upon Jeff’s definition, it probably doesn’t (“an emotion of self-transcendence, a feeling of admiration and elevation in the face of something greater than the self.”).
Next, we have a viral video I particularly liked:
This one hasn’t reached legendary status, but it fits into the “Surprise” and “Awe” categories. The creativity of the designers is certainly amazing!
I’ve already shown you the Ted Williams video in a previous post. Again, I think the element of “Surprise” was at work in this one, and perhaps some awe since this man had such a beautiful voice and (seemingly, at the time) beautiful spirit.
This one was posted Sunday on Mashable, and already has over 200,000 hits. They’re predicting this one will go viral. Before watching, realize that the horse’s name is “Arrrrr”, and listen for how the announcer plays along.
Once again, “Surprise” seems to be the strongest emotion here. No awe here, though.
But what other types of posts can go viral? Last week, as an experiment, I challenged my personal Facebook friends to “Post 2 words that describe Charlie Sheen” and I went first, posting “Train Wreck.” Within two days, I had 26 responses. Some of my favorites included: Mel Gibson, vindictive scumbag, reality check, untreated narcissist, functional interruptis, and Sorry Charlie.
Now, on a normal day, I might get 2-3 responses to a post. So why did this one get such an amazing response? It’s probably a combination of factors (all of which help to explain why this guy has received so much media attention recently), but the primary one from Jeff’s list has to be “Disgust.” I guess “Sadness” also plays a role, as those of us who have been watching Charlie Sheen in films since the 1980s are seeing what appears to be a very public breakdown. Perhaps even “Awe” is at work… his audacity and mind-bending logic (like the fact that CBS should give him a 50% raise after he’s insulted them repeatedly) are a bit awe-inspiring, although not necessarily in a good way.
I still argue that Humor should be added to the list. If you think about the videos, articles, and posts that you’ve shared or responded to, humor has to be a factor in many of them. Humor has to be the reason for the popularity of this video:
This guy Antoine is comic genius, and the video has almost 31 million hits (more hits than Charlie Sheen’s GMA interview). Without Antoine, this is just another news story about a foiled home intruder who got away. Humor was definitely the key here: “Hide yo kids, hide yo wife.” Antoine Dodson apparently now has apps on the iPhone (a free and a $1 version), which I doubt would have happened if his video hadn’t gone viral.
So if you’re attempting to go viral, tap into the factors from Jeff Bullas’ article and maybe you’ll catch the golden goose too.
- Weekend Hilarity: A Horse Named Arrrrr [VIRAL VIDEO] (mashable.com)
- Viral Video Star Gets A New Home After His “Bed Intruder” Rant [Antoine Dodson New House] (jezebel.com)
- Viral Friday: Cats With Thumbs (viralblog.com)