What Makes Content Go Viral on the Internet?

  • November 20, 2022

If you're familiar with web marketing or SEO blogs, you've probably read articles or infographics on the subject.

Everyone, especially brands, want their content to be spontaneously distributed to as many people as possible. Nothing more economical than a good viral campaign. But precisely, what makes an ad or video go viral?

Most of the knowledge in this area comes from an “old” study from December 2009, carried out by two researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, Jonah A. Berger and Katherine L. Milkman. In What Makes Online Content Viral?, the authors adopt a psychological approach to understand the massive diffusion.

To do this, they studied all the articles published on the New York Times over a period of 3 months. The results indicate thatpositive content is more shared than negative content.

But even within these categories, it is necessary to make distinctions. So a negative article that generates anxiety or anger leads to a state of excitement,physiological activation. Yet it is this state that frequently leads to social sharing!

Conversely, the negative contents specific to a state of melancholy or sadness lead to a reduction in physiological activation and therefore the disposition to share. Pwhether the article is good, interesting, surprising, etc.. From the moment he does not stimulate his brainstem, the Internet user will circulate it less on the networks.

In the same way, the position of the article on a page will not further influence the virality of a content : the number of readings perhaps but not the virality in proportion. The feelings linked to reading the article remain decisive.

Increased chances of sharing according to the feeling generated

Some things strike me in these results:

1 / Generate anger offers the best possible virality (34% chance). But can a company, a brand, really try to provoke its customers to be talked about at a lower cost? It is important to properly calculate the risk over time.

Remember when the Carambar jokes stopped as April Fool's Day? Not everyone seemed to be laughing. On the other hand, the buzz was phenomenal and confirms this study very well.

Likewise, can a blogger chain only rants? What impact on the prospects who follow him?

2/ Convenient content offers the second best virality (30% chance). It is a technique now in use: a site that is keen to set up FAQs and guides in response to frequently asked questions from Internet users in their sector of activity.

3 / In 3rd position, tied with practical content, it is the “breathtaking” content that must be aimed at to attract crowds (30% chance).

This makes sense, but not everyone is able to produce it. Otherwise, you will certainly be able to produce some interesting content (4th place with 21% chance).

In conclusion, be POSITIVE daily (and let's share this article 🙂).

Photo of Kimberly, illustrating the Ice Bucket Challenge.


I earned my first income on the web in 2012 by developing and monetizing the traffic of my sites (AdSense ...).

Since 2013 and my first professional services, I have had the opportunity to participate in the development of more than 450 sites in more than +20 countries.

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