What Makes online Content Viral? (2011)

Jonah Berger and Katherine L. MiLKMan


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.

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.