Have you ever wondered what makes some posts or ads go viral like wildfire for no obvious reason at all?
We all know that the most powerful massively influential form of communication & advertising is word of mouth indeed, though it is rarely communicated in person nowadays. In average people share 16,000 words a day through social networks. The virtual word of mouth has become the hydrogen bomb of advertising if you will, but then again what makes people choose to share one specific item over much other information that they are presented within daily basis? More importantly what exactly makes some information go viral?
Scientists have discovered that people in general regardless of their age, sex, ethnicity, and religion share what makes them look more important to others and what excites them & arouses their emotions. Sharing becomes particularly easier when the product carries a certain social proof etiquette, presents a practical value communicated through a compelling story or even when gamified. – there you have it, the essence of engineering an international viral campaign in 3 short sentences!
So how do we modify our posts to look their best and become share-worthy? Scientifically speaking insider knowledge [especially when asked to remain discreet] as well as interesting facts resulting in showing off, getting respect/ favor & interest of others if shared tend to go viral (along with its brand name) like a wildfire in no time, but it would be a short-lived cycle if not triggered properly to reinforce or even reinvent the loops of communication sharing the content constantly and frequently.
Let’s say a good friend of yours sends you a job advertisement link exclusively posted on the certain social network. Not only you join that specific network almost immediately, but also you sign up for future job alerts thereby creating a self-perplexing trigger to keep you informed of the future job offers because you get a special kind of useful information we all desperately need to “survive” in this stagnant economy.
Now let’s say that the very same friend of yours is so dedicated to your financial success that he also sends you some inside info about how to become a Brand Ambassador and invest in a startup unicorn with the potential of profit sharing in return for not disclosing this secret to anyone else until you two get the hang of it!
Your obvious reaction is disbelief followed by this ever-famous sentence: “Come on, it is too good to be true” so you go around asking some of your best friends about this “new internet scam” and they go like “Whaaaat?” So, before you know it your brain-dead friends too, join that particular startup behind your back, while you are absolutely unaware of the fact that you have actually created an online chain reaction by asking people to keep it down while researching this offer! The moral of this story is obvious; never trust your friends, or your family members especially your spouse when it comes to keeping a secret!
Scientists also believe that in the latter example, if your friend was to build a compelling story around the insider info as opposed to sending you the link as raw data it would be highly unlikely for you to go through the due-diligence process simply because people love stories especially the ones that start like this: “I know a guy who knows a guy who became a shareholder of a tech giant startup by … ! “
The scientific reason behind this phenomenon very much like the social proof principle is rooted deep in our psyche; thousands of years ago, before the written words were invented the primary carrier of ideas were stories passed down generation to generation; therefore, when confronted with the enjoyment of a story we tend to overlook the validity of facts presented and think of it as containing important information.
Our psyche has evolved very little since we were seen covered in hair some 300,000 years ago, that is why most of our important decisions are still made not employing the Neocortex but rather by means of impulses or reflexes generated from the neural system’s very core called the Reptilian & Limbic Brains.
In other words, no pieces of new information will ever be presented to your Neocortex for further rational analysis, unless it first passes through your two other less developed brains and survives instinctive and emotional reflexes/ impulses.
We are still afraid of going hunting alone; instead we prefer activities that a large number of other people are visibly seen engaged with and for the same reason we are in desperate need of social acceptance and approval so much so that an outcast minority responds much better to targeted marketing because they finally feel acknowledged and accepted. We still value stories, rhythms, & rhymes above fact & logic.
Our primary cause of motivation still comes from responding to strong emotions such as fear, awe, amusement, anger, and anxiety as opposed to contentment or logical reasoning!
This is how the gamifying theory has emerged proving to be so successful in social network engagement as well. Since the dawn of humanity and very much like every other mammal, Homo Sapiens too learned by playing games in their childhood mimicking hunting practices and showing off their trophies and hunts to others seeking recognition and social approval.
Our high-tech civilization’s most noticeable achievement is summarized in the fact that we have managed to successfully replace the caveman’s mace & club with a cellphone; rules of the game are still the same so don’t expect too much when you shorten the decision-making time to less than a few seconds thereby restricting the information to reach the Neocortex.
To cut this long sermon short if you want your posts to go viral target the lower brain by encouraging compulsive behavior in self-defense, competition, territoriality, reproductive drive while stirring up such emotions as excitement & awe to engrave your name in your audience’s memory. In other words, be more of Reptilian Mammal or even a Mammalian Lizard but less of an evolved rational human if you want to thrive in this virtual jungle!
But why is it so important to make your messages go viral? Since the turn of the 21st century, business is not as usual mainly due to the arrival of the internet and the rise of global branding. In the past, almost every new brand was launched with a big advertising campaign. In today’s media environment, that doesn’t work anymore. PR or “controversy” in particular makes the news, which it spreads like wildfire through free media forums [going viral] thus defusing competitors expensive marketing campaigns. Moreover, while PR is regarded as genuine, advertising is generally perceived as insincere. A successful PR campaign would A) choose a brand name that communicates the brand value, B) enforce its values with a strong visual, not a verbal message and C) target multiple categories as a whole with multiple brands rather than one. Effective PR increases the product/ brand popularity in a number of ways. Contrary to common misconception popularity is all about exposure, not quality, that is why repetition is so important in building a brand. Furthermore, Loewy’s Most Advanced Yet Acceptable Theory – MAYA states that objects which are novel, yet familiar enough to be recognizable may become an instant hit provided that they grow weary of overly familiar things. Sexist stereotypes, approval of authority figures and peer pressure will impact a product popularity indisputably. Subtleness, however, is the key, for inflated popularity produces unrealistic expectations which can actually deter even the most loyal clients in the long run.