Online from: 2002
Subject Area: Strategy
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Article citation: J. Berger, (2012) "What makes online content viral?", Strategic Direction, Vol. 28 Iss: 8, pp. -
Berger J. and Milkman K.L.
Journal of Marketing Research, April 2012, Vol. 49 No. 1, Start page: 192, No. of pages: 14
Why are certain pieces of online content (e.g. advertisements, videos, news articles) more viral than others? This article takes a psychological approach to understanding diffusion. Using a unique data set of all the New York Times articles published over a three-month period, the authors examine how emotion shapes virality. The results indicate that positive content is more viral than negative content, but the relationship between emotion and social transmission is more complex than valence alone. Virality is partially driven by physiological arousal. Content that evokes high-arousal positive (awe) or negative (anger or anxiety) emotions is more viral. Content that evokes low-arousal, or deactivating, emotions (e.g. sadness) is less viral. These results hold even when the authors control for how surprising, interesting, or practically useful content is (all of which are positively linked to virality), as well as external drivers of attention (e.g. how prominently content was featured). Experimental results further demonstrate the causal impact of specific emotion on transmission and illustrate that it is driven by the level of activation induced. Taken together, these findings shed light on why people share content and how to design more effective viral marketing campaigns.
Article type: Research paper
Keywords: Social transmission, Viral marketing, Word of mouth