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The Top Five Traits that Encourage Sharing

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The Top Five Traits that Encourage Sharing


While it may seem like viral videos take off by accident, there’s actually a short list of psychology traits that the most popular marketing videos embody that boosts their popularity. Here they are, in order of effectiveness…

1. Catchy Tune

By far, music videos are the most viral. One look at the YouTube top trending videos of 2013 and it’s easy to see why: people love music. Duh. Scientists believe that music turns on the entire brain and releases dopamine. Combine that with humor and people can’t help but share it. Tapping into that, Toyota knocked it out of the park with Swagger Wagon. The irony of a rap song on top of a couple of white suburban parents is hilarious.

Of course, it isn’t easy coming up with a song that also enhances your brand, let alone being able to actually sing it. The way Swagger Wagon works is by using actors on film and singers in a sound booth. By separating the two, they were able to tell a musical story, but the actors didn’t have to actually sing it. And they were able to deliver a pop-sounding song featuring their core demographic. It’s a brilliant tactic and one that you can replicate.

If you can sing, for God’s sake don’t sing a serious song or take yourself too seriously in it. Leverage humor, the second most powerful psychology trait, and you’ll be well on your way to the next viral hit.

2. Humor

If you can’t sing or come up with a catchy tune, humor is the next best thing to humor at driving sharing. People love to make their friends laugh, which also gives them social currency (by knowing about something funny before their friends).

In short, be funny. I know, this is way easier said than done. The best place to start to come up with a funny concept is to think of your own life and make fun of it; it’s pretty likely that others share the same situation.

If you’re really stuck:

  • Consider using a completely different character in your concept or setting to make it ironic.
  • Self-deprecation always works, but only if you’re not the only one with the situation or condition.
  • Deadpan also works well. For example,

3. Awe & Unexpectedness

There’s a reason why the video of Felix Baumgartner’s remarkable 128,000-foot jump from a space capsule has been viewed so much: it’s truly awesome. And Red Bull’s YouTube channel is full of incredible feats of daring. Awe comes from attempting something that seems impossible and actually doing it. Either very well prepared professionals or complete idiots perform such feats. I certainly hope you are in the former category. Better yet, try singing instead.

Alongside awe is the power that comes from catching people off-guard. If you can truly surprise people, you will cause them to remember you and share your video. But with access to the entire world at our fingertips, it’s getting harder and harder to truly surprise people; they’ve seen it all before. This is why unexpectedness is much more difficult to pull off than awe. Unexpectedness starts with the ordinary and suddenly takes a turn. For instance, the “epic fail.”

Like awesomeness, we can’t recommend attempting to film an epic fail. But there are other forms that we do recommend, such as IBM’s “A Boy and His Atom.” We’re pretty sure no one got hurt during the filming of this movie.

4. Stories

In stories, we experience personal journeys, not merely watch or read them. So they stick in our minds much better than simply describing a product or concept. Stories allow people to share everything we experience in our daily lives, in short little narratives. In other words, people lean forward when they are entertained. A typical story goes like this: a person that the viewer can empathize with wants something, an obstacle stands in their way, despite the challenges they accomplish their goal, and finally the story reaches a satisfactory ending. But that framework is not always the case, as with this great little tale from the Philippines…

Following the framework above is very helpful. But the most important thing to remember about it is, you need to start with the character at the beginning, not your product at the end. Otherwise, it will feel shallow and your audience will feel cheated.

5. Emotion

While the story from the Philippines above is emotional, it’s also an abstract story, which isn’t always the best fit for a marketer. For example, there are times when brands want to stir emotion more directly, to make people think about an issue using more concrete terms and real people (read: authenticity). Procter & Gamble did exactly that with their hit video, “Like a Girl.”

Another great example is the pop band One Direction’s emotional appeal to encourage people to help out needy children by paying for a simple, inexpensive vaccine. Sure, they could have sung their hearts out, but their raw emotion is truly moving.

Of course, it helps tremendously to be promoting a concept or topic that is inherently emotional, such as vaccines for children. But your video can achieve the same emotional response if you are true to your own emotions. If you care about it, and adequately present that truth, chances are others will respond accordingly. In short, if it’s emotional to you it is likely emotional to others. Unless, of course, you’re a robot then none of this matters.

I hope you’ve found this article helpful. Incorporating the psychology of sharing in social media video means maximizing reach without added expense. To learn more about how to maximize ROI with better images and video, you can…