What really drives social sharing?

It seems that most brand teams I talk to these days are all striving to get their content shared online. This is a a bit of a lottery, with only 0.33% of YouTube videos getting more than 1 million views, as I posted on here. But, if you are going to try and get your content shared, how to do your maxmise your chances of winning this lottery? A recent research paper from Decoded has some answers, here. It is based on research done by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute on 800 online videos.

1. Emotional activation

The biggest driver of video sharing was creating a strong emotional reaction, with high "activation" generating twice as many onward transfers as a low activation. The emotions driving activation can be positive (inspiration, astonishment, exhilaration) or negative (disgust, sadness, shock). An example of the latter would be Save the Children's recent "Shocking second a day" video,  created to raise awareness of how children in Syria are suffering from the violent unrest there. This video has been seen 31.7 million times.

2. Positive beats negative

Whilst emotionally activating people is the biggest driver of sharing, positive emotions do beat negative ones, with positively emotional videos being shared 30% more.

3. Mass seeding

Whilst some  videos do get shared with limited amplification in cconventional media, these tend to be rare. The Decode paper suggests that the the intial reach of a video is key to driving the number of people it reaches. This is what Microsoft researcher Duncan Watts calls "big seed marketing". Indeed, many of the examples of successful viral videos have benefited from this big seed marketing, as I posted on here.

4. Brand pulsing

The Decode paper propses "brand pulsing" to help ensure your brand actually benefits from being shared. This involves have the brand "integrated unobtrusively into the ad, by repeated exposure but in each case only for a short moment." The Coke "Happiness Factory" ad is quoted as an example of this.   

In conclusion, if you do want your content to get have a chance of winning the viral video lottery, make sure it evokes some strong emotion, ideally positive. Do this and you will be one of a minority of brands, given that only 26% of videos in the survey pulled this off.