Before I start this post I just want to take a moment to say Merry Christmas! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday.
Over the summer this year, I worked for a small Social Media Marketing company in Miami known as The Jupiter Circle. Among the writing and meetings, one of the things I did was some research every so often, and one of my research questions was that of vitality. What exactly makes content go viral? What emotions does the most popular content online inspire in us? I thought that the end of the year, when we’re at the crossroads of looking back and moving forward, would be a good time to share the two most important bits of information that came out of this research.
First off, high-arousal emotions generate the most action on social media. This shouldn’t surprise us, given the social media phenomenon this year known as “the dress,” which taught us the important lesson that nothing spreads faster than passionate disagreement. This is actually intuitive enough for us: passion is the driver of motion. If you want someone to give a task their all or fulfill a duty, you need to make them feel strong about it. Whether anger or joy or sheer determination, emotions that make us feel strongly are more likely to drive us to action, which is why posts that go viral are likely to make us laugh or cry or seethe.
However, it’s the second thing I dug up in my research is the one that’s truly most interesting, and the one I want to keep in mind and that I hope you all will keep in mind as we move boldly into the next year. More often than not, the videos or photos or posts that go viral inspire positive emotions in us. This might surprise, but if you need any proof, you can check out the top five most shared campaigns on social media here. All five of them (and I won’t spoil it by saying who released them) inspire positive emotions in us, whether wonder or amusement or heartwarming joy. If you want to make people act on social media, in other words, make them happy.
There’s something incredibly powerful in this second lesson, and something that we can apply to the world outside of social media: the positive motivates. So often we’re confronted by examples of leaders feeding on fear or anger or hatred. People, though, are far more likely to act, far more likely to respond to us, if we motivate them with compassion or love or happiness. Perhaps it’s the optimist in me, but I just find this incredibly heartening, that we reach out to each other in friendship more readily than in anger.
In a way, I suppose that this post is the culmination of a lot of things I’ve been trying to say with this blog over the year. First off, we can find wisdom anywhere, from the tantrums of babies to the most popular viral campaigns on social media. Second, there’s a reason I end all my posts now by saying “with excitement and optimism.” The world is a great big wide place, and although it’s far from perfect I’m optimistic about where it’s headed, and I’m excited to help it get there. I hope you all are too, as we move into a year that will be joyful and tearful and everything in between but will also be, above all, new. And what’s more exciting than that?