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Clickable V. Shareable: Aiming Content Strategy Compass Toward Virality [SXSW]

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Our SXSW ambassadors have returned from Austin creatively recharged and ready to share their experiences and learnings from the 2016 SXSW Interactive festival. The below post is a first-person account from one of our brand ambassadors, Maria Loida, Senior Social Publicist at 360i. In this post Maria recaps one of the SXSW panels she attended – “Beyond the Listical: The Science of Virality.”

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SXSW is the epitome of clutter – a reminder to marketers what they’re up against in the real and digital worlds perhaps. So, even when you do find a seat at a panel, how deep can you get in one hour? There was one panel in particular I attended that stood out to me – “Beyond the Listicle: The Science of Virality” – with some really smart people from Google, Northeastern University, Zoe Media Group and Upworthy.

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As marketers, we’d all like to be behind the next “dress” or “dog pants” meme, especially, if we could harness that level of engagement and excitement for our brands. While achieving virality frequently or sometimes ever isn’t always realistic, breaking down some of the tenets of viral content can help us all create better, more impactful work. In the below post, I’ve outlined the most important takeaways below from the session and for marketers to consider when developing content strategies.

The Difference Between ‘Clickability’ and ‘Shareability’
The reasons why we click something and choose to share something are different, and according to the panel, are actually inversely related. We click to satisfy our private, curious, and “information- and entertainment-oriented selves” – our “actual selves.” Comparatively, we share content to express our “ideal selves” – that which is public and self-enhancing. While both are important to the equation of virality (see formulas below), ensuring that you’re hitting on the sharable qualities when considering content is key.

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Understanding Activating Emotions
Sean Wojcik, Upworthy’s Social Psychologist Research Scientist on the panel, spoke a lot about the research he’s done on the types of emotions associated with viral content. The ones that ignite the most activation are happiness, joy and excitement – especially when combined with empowerment and confidence. Fear and anger can also be activating through the lens of the feelings being confident and reaffirming. It’s important to note that not every brand in every communication can own all of these emotions at once, and it’s vital to consider where, when and how a brand can tap into activating emotions to speak to their consumer segments when building out content strategies.

Content Distribution and Virality
Referring back to the above Formula image, the final metric, spread, is the most important piece of the virality puzzle. A panelist revealed one of the main reasons the “dress” meme went viral was in part due to Paramore’s fan community, which is a highly engaged digital community with very strong global roots. The original image was posted on Tumblr, then picked up and shared via Paramore’s super fans, and soon after, seemed to be found on just about everyone’s social feeds. Unfortunately, we as marketers can’t just call up Paramore every time we want something to blow up and go viral – but we can strategically target the right audiences with smart digital word-of-mouth strategies like Influencer Marketing and conversation mapping, and audience-first paid social strategies.

For more on 360i at SXSW 2016, check out #SX360i on Twitter, and read the additional SXSW content being posted by ambassadors on the 360i blog this week.