Huddle 2018 - Content Hub

How marketers underestimate the critical relationship between emotion and virality

Viral content is a marketer’s dream. When viral, its content shared beyond its predicted parameters, and eye balls you don’t have to pay for.  

As always marketeers are too quick to quantify and calculate, creating over-complicated viral theories where often they have fallen at the first hurdle. Their approach to social sharing and the emotional responses attached. All marketeers need to first understand is what emotions they want to evoke before they engage in any grand strategy. 

Think about the last time you shared something with a friend on social media. You might not realise, but when you get that urge to tell someone something, there’s always a reason.  

For example, if someone sends you a video of your one-year-old nephew catching a ball, the first thing you might think is, “I need to show this to someone!”  

Why would that be the first thing to go through your mind? 

Well it’s simple; the video would spike the following emotions.  

  1. This is so cute 

  2. You are in awe – this one-year-old can catch a ball!   

There’s not actually a name for the emotion you feel when something is super cute; let’s call it cutemotion. If you can remember when you’ve seen something super cute, an animal or a baby usually, you’ll be able to remember how that physically made you feel; some people even want to squeeze the cute thing because it’s just THAT cute.  

And awe, well awe is one of the most ‘arousing’ emotions1 in the world. You get goosebumps, can’t catch your breath or even want to cry. While watching a video of a child catching a ball wouldn’t necessarily be comparable to seeing the aurora borealis, you would still feel the same emotion of awe, although probably less potent.

The urge to share videos of cute children or animals with friends is because your emotions are heightened and you feel the need to share that feeling with someone else; to give them that emotional gift and allow them to feel the same too. It makes us feel good as humans to see other people experience good emotions.  

However, emotions don’t have to be positive to be sharable; they just have to be arousing.  

Nobody cares about indifference. 

Think about the last time you were angry, for example. Did you just sit and not tell anyone about it? Or did you vent to your friends, your other half, your colleagues? Again, this emotional spike is always likely to garner an emotional response. In the case of being angry, you’re sharing to be told you’re right or for people to understand you.  

These emotional responses, alongside other emotions, will garner the same reaction on social media. It’s the reason our Facebook timelines are full of cute puppies because people’s cutemotion is spiked and they need to share that emotion with their friends. A negative spike of emotion is one of the reasons why someone like Steven Crowder is getting millions of views on his ‘Change My Mind’ series because so many people are angry at his point of view - they’re simply playing into his hands.  

Emotional arousal is an essential ingredient when creating viral content, but there’s a lot more to it than just that. Using this knowledge and a deep understanding of people and social media, Hannah Anderson, Co-Founder and Head of Social & Creative at Media Chain, built millions of followers on social media and was lucky enough to turn her passion for social and creating viral content into an award-winning company. Media Chain, part of the Social Chain Group, now has a reach of 1.8bn every month through its 76 million followers.  

With Gen Z known as the most difficult audience to target, Media Chain’s Huddle session will be exploring how to make viral content for Gen Z. 


1: Jonah Berger – Contagious