The Emotional Combinations That Make Stories Go Viral

HBRViral

Excerpt from this article in the Harvard Business Review:

Viral content typically evokes high-arousal emotions, such as joy or fear. But new research suggests arousal is just one of the underlying drivers of viral content. High dominance, or a feeling of being in control, may be another key driver behind content that is widely shared.

…Articles with a large number of comments were found to evoke high-arousal emotions, such as anger and happiness, paired with low-dominance emotions where people felt less in control, such as fear. The New York Times articles that received the most comments in 2015 all featured emotionally charged, and often divisive, topics: Amazon’s stringent workplace policies, Kim Davis, a police officer charged with murder, the San Bernardino shootings, the Benghazi panel.

On the other hand, social sharing was very connected to feelings of high dominance, where the reader feels in control, such as inspiration or admiration. This explains why your Facebook newsfeed may be flooded by friends sharing feel-good stories. Some of the most-shared content on Facebook within the past year included titles such as “17 Reasons Why Your High School Best Friends Will Be Your BFFs for Life” (more than 230,000 Facebook shares) and “51 of the Most Beautiful Sentences in Literature” (more than 300,000 Facebook shares).

 

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