How ‘viral’ works – the scientific proof.

Thales Teixeira of Harvard Business School is studying viral content on social networks and has been scouring the social media landscape to do so. His findings may certainly be astonishing, but for students and fans of human psychology, his analysis simply drives home the basic notions at the foundation of the psychological field.

At the end of the day it isn’t the tool or the content itself that drives viral advertising; it’s you. It’s the human desire for recognition. We share things because it is somehow a representation of us. We want to share it because we want to be identified with the message being sent. This means, however, when people choose  to share an ad, they ask themselves What do I stand to lose by sharing this? How will it make me look? Will my peers still respect me?

These are the subconscious questions we all carry around with us. Therefore, any content which wishes to become viral needs to address these questions and create content where loss is out, and our audience only stands to gain in the eyes of those around them. We need to create content that will allow our sharers to become somebody else’s hero.

Here are his findings in a nutshell:

  1. Don’t shove your logo or your brand in your viewer’s face. Do it discreetly
  2. Fill your ad with many different high points. Do not just build to one single big bang. Instead, create a narrative with various mini-climaxes all the way through.
  3. Integrate humor throughout the ad rather than only featuring one humorous sequence or leaving all the “funny” for the ending. This can often inadvertently jilt the viewer rather than engage them, as the humor comes more as a surprise than something seamlessly built into the content. Regardless, also be aware that humor is a tricky animal and it won’t always work for everyone.
  4. When it comes to why people share ads, it seems their main motivator is themselves. In sharing the ad, it becomes an expression of something they want to be associated with. It’s called ad symbiosis, and it means when they share, you both win!

I recommend listening to the professor and getting the details yourself. Also, feel free to like me for sending this to you. As Thales says, I apparently didn’t do it for you at all. This is all just for myself! 😉

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