Yesterday, I asked my students to name some videos they thought of as “viral,” that is, something that had been shared extensively. We also discussed some of the factors that they had in common and recurring themes centered around humor, cuteness (read: cats/dogs), and emotional appeal. Here’s one of the videos we looked at in class (also boosted by a $4+ million Super Bowl ad spot…):
Just remember that identifying common traits among videos that became successful does not necessarily tell you why they became successful unless you also consider all the videos that had similar characteristics but did not become viral. Otherwise, your analysis will be subject to the so-called “survivor bias.” Jonah Berger points this out in his excellent book Contagious: Why Things Catch On and strikes home the point with the statement:
“But these ‘theories’ ignore the fact that many funny or cute videos never take off. Sure, some cat clips get millions of views, but those are the outliers, not the norm. Most get less than a few dozen.”
Perhaps in another blog post, I will discuss Jonah Berger’s take on viral marketing in more detail and I also hope that he remembers from his visit to Chapman University that he has promised me a podcast interview In the meantime, I highly recommend you get his book Contagious yourself and learn more about the six factors that Jonah Berger argues are scientifically established as positively contributing towards a higher likelihood of something going viral:
- Social currency
- Practical value
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