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What people seem to share

Ever so often I am asked by people what makes things go viral, or ‘how can I viral a campaign’.

And I have given the usual thing of ‘ if people find it interesting, they will share’.

But it seems that is too simple an answer. So I did a ‘scientific’ study of my facebook newsfeed and my twitter feed to look at what my friends, and those I follow share.

If this works for this demographic, which would be a marketers dream, it should work for most relevant, valuable segments. That’s my belief.

And it wouldn’t be the first time I was wrong.

So here goes.

I have divided my findings into 2 categories.

Originated Content

Shared Content


Originated Content:

Hands down this is about their children. Their first walk, their first bath, their first day in school, their coming back from school, swimming medals, toys they made, toys they destroyed, rugby matches etc etc. Anything kids and you will see it.

The interest in sharing food pictures seems to have declined, if not died.

What does this mean for marketers? If parents are sharing so much about their kids then marketers need to find a way to be a part of this. At the simplest level brand should participate in all school events. Don’t wait for the big annual day things. Parents are proud of every single achievement of their kids. So create events, take part in class events, house events whatever. And give certificates/prizes. It builds bonds with the parent and she, and he, will share it with the world.

There is of course other originated content but it lags way behind wrt sharing, so I am not referring to it here. Sorry writers and artists.


Shared Content:

Again here I omit any content that is celebrity linked in anyway, as they have an unfair advantage. Same with music.

  • Humour: Head and shoulders over any shared content type is humour. Who doesn’t enjoy a laugh? And this is revealed in the fact that this category is so popular.

The rule seems to be ‘Silly is king’: While there are many types of humour, obviously, the one people like to share and retweet is the one I can only call silly. Think Over the top, slapstick, puns, cat videos etc. The ecards, George Takei’s stuff all fall into this category. And king of the heap is Gangnam Style.Followed by ‘What does the Fox say?’

Silly doesn’t have to be idiotic, though idiotic gives it added momentum.

Brand that come to mind that have used this well are Old Spice (Hello ladies), Samsung with Ellen’s selfie and even I would say VW’s Star wars ad.

Humour is hard but slapstick is easy and Old Spice and VW have shown that it can be done well. Very well.

A tactic that brands that are serious, can use, is to make memes of their own serious ads and make those humorous. The advertising agency will be happy to do this task so that the brand itself can maintain it’s ‘purity’.

If you create content that is ‘parodyable’ then there are enough people out there who will, and spread the word on the brand’s behalf. So shape content accordingly.

  • Human Interest: The next category that people share is human interest stories. Upworthy has made a business of providing just this kind of content. The ‘ When X did Y, you’d never guess what happened next’ formula. Besides this we all share in our friends’ joys and sorrows. We like, empathise and share it with them.

Obama’s 4 more years tweet was the most retweeted in the history of twitter before Ellen’s selfie.

Brand’s that play in this space such as food, health and nutrition, education, financial services and so on should look at creating/packaging content for the social media space wrapped in a human interest angle. Subsume the brand to the bigger arc and let your audiences share it for you.

  • See how smart I am: This is a relatively nascent category of sharing. This is putting in the hands of the customer information what she, or he, will share thereby showing how smart they are. TED talks are king of this pile. Who doesn’t share Ted talks? Whether they sit through the entire 18 minutes or not. The category of infographics runs on the premise that people will want to share information, whether they consume it or not. This is the digital equivalent of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

This is relatively easy to do. Collect a bunch of statistics. Put them into bright coloured charts and give them an intelligent sounding label. And you’re good to go. I jest of course, but if everyone read all the ‘information’ they were sharing there is just no way they’d be doing any work!!

So, there you have it.

My analysis of my timeline, newsfeed whatever.

Yours may be different, of course, though I think rather unlikely.

Next time someone asks me ‘how to viral a campaign’ I have a more ‘scientific’ answer.

Now I have some Economist articles to retweet. For example did you know China’s a growing market for private jets?

  1. April 21, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    Yet another brilliant post from you Harish! Insightful, and original!!! Its a real pleasure reading your posts Harish!

      April 21, 2014 at 7:18 pm

      Thanks Ajoy!

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