Virality in many cases is a matter of luck, but a UC Berkeley study found some factors that help positive content go viral.
In previous articles we have drawn attention to the fact that our brain seems to be predisposed to share negative news.
Several authors and analysts in the field of neuroscience have commented on the idea that this emphasis that we usually place on negative publications may respond to evolutionary reasons.
But interesting research points to possible reasons that
make positive content go viral on the same level, if not more forcefully, than negative content.
Why do we like to share motivational quotes, inspirational videos, and heartwarming posts?
Understanding virality on The internet
The concept of “viral” comes from medical jargon and is an analogy that arises from comparing popular content with the way in which diseases are spread. But in the case of content, the medium is social media.
The content of those viral videos varies a lot, and they can be a mix of user-generated content or carefully planned advertising.
For example, Old Spice’s marketing campaign in 2010 became a viral sensation on the internet, as the commercial was shown in Super Bowl XLIV and the response campaign was viewed 5.9 million times on the first day alone. , which was more than Obama’s victory speech in 2008.
The elements that make positive content go viral
In general, research has shown that videos that elicit very strong emotional responses (positive, such as joy or admiration, or negative, such as anger or anxiety) are more likely to be shared.
According to some research, if you’re watching a video or reading an article that gets your blood pumping and makes you feel excited, happy, or amazed, or even angry, you’re more likely to take the time to share it with others.
But what exactly are the attributes of videos that go viral? This is a question that the research team that Professor Sophie H. Janicke set out to answer, for which they focused on inspiring content (they left out comic and anger-provoking content).
Inspiration certainly comes in many forms. But regardless of its origin or source, the experience of inspiration is remarkably similar for all of us: we feel moved, we feel empathy, we may even feel like crying, and we are motivated to improve ourselves.
As Dr. Jyotsna Verma explains , feeling inspired gives us energy we didn’t think we had and prompts us to think beyond pursuing our self-interest to help others.
This research shows that feeling inspired has a direct impact on our well-being, prompting those who strive to live a fulfilling life to seek to experience this feeling.
According to Dr. Rajesh Kumar Verma , there is a specific set of environmental indicators that are consistently associated with inspiration.
These stimuli include exposure to nature, art, vastness, religious traditions, or symbols, gifts, and kindness.
We can also be inspired when we see other people, including media characters, express their appreciation for beauty or excellence, act appreciative, or display exceptional skills, encouragement, perseverance, and triumph over setbacks.
The inspiring story of our famous cricketer Dhoni went viral in a few hours.
With this knowledge in hand, Dr. Janicke’s research team went on a “virtual hunt” to analyze
- 21 hours of YouTube videos
- 53 hours of television programs
- 104 hours of movies
- 7,255,860 words from New York Times articles
- 3,733 posts on Facebook
to find out what are the factors that make a content go viral. These are the findings.
- YouTube: The more messages of hope the videos had, the chances of having not only more unique views, but more repeat views increased.
- Facebook: The team found that depictions of nature, vastness, art, and gratitude (in the form of thanks, gifts, or portraits of kindness) predicted the number of “likes” combined with the number of reactions per post. In general, posts with a higher number of inspirational stimuli were more likely to be viral than posts that contained a lower number of stimuli.
- New York Times: Researchers found a similar pattern to Facebook’s analysis. The top 20 most emailed, tweeted and shared articles over the course of three months in 2016. Here, we found longer articles and those that contained the most inspirational words. (eg, amazement, inspiration, insight, appreciation) were more likely to go viral among readers.
- Movies: In inspiring productions (like “Blindside” or “Pursuit of Happiness”) and television shows (like “Fixer Upper” or “Friday Night Lights”), we found that hope, once again, was the most frequent character . The most frequent environmental drivers are nature and vastness.
In all the analyzed media, it seems that content that contains representations of nature, encouragement and overcoming obstacles (representations of hope) has a high probability of being shared and seen by the public.
These findings are interesting for content creators looking for “virality” (although virality itself shouldn’t be the goal of any campaign)
As we mentioned at the beginning, negative news has a high probability of being spread.
But if we think about the impact of media on the consumer, it’s good to know that inspiring content, particularly the kind that could benefit our well-being in the long run, can also go viral.
One of the reflections that remains is that both the positive and the negative content is there and will continue to be. But it depends on each person what type of publications they want to “feed”.
And something important: the content that I serve myself is usually the content that I serve others.
Do I want to improve the well-being of the people around me? Hope is surely something we all need an extra dose of these days.