Successful marketing campaigns create an irresistible buzz around products and services. Discover the secret sauce that gets content shared.

Want Your Content to Go Viral? Follow the Recipe to Generate Buzz

Word-of-mouth advertising has always been important to the success of a business. Eighty-three percent of respondents to a 2015 Nielsen survey, for example, called recommendations from family and friends the most trustworthy source of advertising there is. But this trust is not just limited to people we know. Sixty-six percent of respondents also said that they trust consumer opinions posted on-line.

In the business sector, the impact is even greater, with 91% of B2B purchasers saying their buying decisions are influenced by word-of-mouth.

With numbers like these, is it any wonder that everyone wants to know the magic formula for creating a buzz around their products and services?

The advent of social media means that our social networks extend further than ever before, resulting in unprecedented opportunities for huge numbers of people to share content – like videos to promote your business. According to the Harvard Business Review, a successful viral marketing campaign may be viewed millions of times, often leading to free exposure in traditional media like television, radio, or newspapers.

Buzz Gets Content Shared

Unfortunately, however, there isn’t really a “magic formula” to rely on. Adam Mordecai, editor-at-large for Upworthy, goes as far as to say “there’s a 99.5% chance that everything you make will fail,” and many experts say that dumb luck plays a bigger role than we’d like to admit.

Still, there are certain components that viral content tends to have in common. Understanding and including these components in your own videos will help create your own recipe for viral marketing success.

Emotional Content: Make Portions Generous

Last time, we talked about the importance of emotions in advertising, and videos are no exception. High-arousal emotions, like joy, excitement, and even anger or anxiety, cause us to act, while low-arousal emotions, like depression, make us “want to curl up in a ball and do nothing.”

That’s according to Jonah Berger, a Wharton School professor and author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On.

Emotional Content: Make Portions GenerousA study Berger conducted showed that people were more likely to share content after watching high-arousal videos, regardless of whether the emotion involved was positive (in this case, amusement) or negative (anxiety).

A second experiment showed that having someone run in place for 60 seconds more than doubled the likelihood (from 33% to 75%) of that person wanting to e-mail a piece of content to others. Like emotions, Berger asserts, exercise “gets the blood pumping, it gets our heart going, it gets our mind and our senses on alert. And this activation drives us to share things, even if we don’t mean to share them.”

Negativity and Controversy: Use Sparingly

The distinction between high and low arousal becomes important when deciding how to frame your message. Berger suggests that public-health content, for example, which often discusses “negative” topics like disease or injury, could be more spread more effectively if evoking anxiety rather than sadness. Both are negative emotions, but sadness, like depression, is low-arousal and won’t move people to share.

Numerous studies, many performed by Berger himself, indicate that it is positive content (often described as having high or “positive” valence) which is more likely to be shared, and that negative emotions, while they have their place, should be used sparingly for maximum impact. People don’t generally want to be that “Debbie Downer” who shares something negative with others.

But striking the right chord is tricky. Humor, for example, is widely appreciated (and shared) in both Europe and the United States but is culturally sensitive and also has the potential to offend. Likewise, controversy can be a great conversation-starter when mild but also makes people uncomfortable when too intense.

Secret Ingredients: Surprise, Irony, and Authenticity

Want to reach as many people as possible with your video or message? Your best bets are to inspire joy, interest, trust, and anticipation. These were the four emotions most often felt by participants who took part in an analysis of viral images that appeared on Imgur.

Secret Ingredients: Surprise, Irony, and AuthenticityBut don’t stop there. Images and videos often go viral when they inspire a range of emotions, both positive and negative – and the secret ingredient seems to be an element of surprise. A study from Elon University found that 50% of viral videos from Time Magazine included surprise while 90% included irony, a closely related concept that was defined in the study as “something contradictory to societal expectations.”

So, don’t be afraid to take viewers on a bit of a rollercoaster ride. Adam Mordecai recommends telling “compelling stories with narrative arcs, complete with heroes, villains, a journey, authenticity, and hopefully some humor.”

Tricks of the Trade: Become a Viral Masterchef

Tricks of the Trade: Become a Viral Masterchef You may have a great idea for a video, but it won’t create any buzz until it starts going viral. Get your video noticed (and shared) by implementing these insider tips:

  • Keep videos under three minutes long. Long form blog posts provide more value to readers, but videos do best when they’re short and punchy. Not only are attention spans declining (according to com, 19% of videos lose viewers within the first 10 seconds, while 44% lose viewers after a minute), but many people share from work (another reason to keep content tame and inoffensive). In the Elon study cited above, 60% of the examined videos were “short,” defined as less than two minutes long.
  • Share at the right time. Experts are not short on suggestions regarding the “ideal” time to share videos and other content, but as data from Internet marketing giant HubSpot points out, this is actually dependent on numerous factors. The platforms you are using, the regions you are targeting, and how your audience interacts with each platform all play a role. For best results, develop a profile of your target audience to understand their habits.
  • Optimize for sharing. Make it easy for your audience to share. That means making share buttons prominent and easy to find and reminding viewers to share by including calls to action within your videos. Reach more people by submitting your content to sites like Reddit, BuzzFeed, and Upworthy.
  • Spend time crafting your titles. The title of your video is the first thing people will see before making the decision to click. Not only should it deliver on any promises it makes, but it should also provoke curiosity, creating an irresistible urge to see the video.
  • Be emotional. As we mentioned, it’s no secret that emotions play an important role in successful advertising campaigns. People are more likely to share content that touches their feelings.

Think you know what makes a good title? Think again.

Let’s take a closer look at that second to last point.

You might think that a long, descriptive title is the way to go. In fact, research shows the opposite. An astounding 40% of the titles of viral videos examined in the Elon study contained less than three words, while an analysis of 9,700 videos optimized by BuzzFeed found that titles under 40 characters performed best on Facebook. Titles under 70 characters did best on YouTube.

Videos on both platforms did worse when the title began with a question word (22 and 24%, respectively).

At Upworthy, Mordecai says that the titles they write tend to be “slightly vague” and emotionally compelling. They also experiment with how they frame their content, creating 25 headlines for each post they write – perhaps one of the few times having “too many cooks in the kitchen” is actually a good thing.

Do What the Experts Do: Use the Right Tools

Do What the Experts Do: Use the Right ToolsGiven the prominent role of emotions in viral marketing, you may be wondering if there’s a way to measure emotions outside the laboratory setting.

Emolytics has created two scientifically recognized emotion analysis tools to help you do just that.

First is the “Emoscore,” a unique customer engagement KPI which captures emotions and the reasons behind them via a widget that fully integrates into all of your marketing materials.

Second is the Net Positivity Index (NPI), which measures audience positivity. Used in conjunction with other KPIs, these special feedback tools provide valuable qualitative insights you can use to understand what your customers are feeling as they view your videos and other content.capture-decran-2016-11-03-a-12-07-57

Thanks to these two emotion analysis tools, you can drive A/B testing or gauge reactions before and after. So you optimize your campaign for buzz before you launch it.

Getting ready to serve up an important marketing campaign of your own? A dash of Emolytics may be just what you need to finally go viral.

Request a free consultation with one of our experts – or just try our scrumptious feedback widget for free!

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