We’ve all watched or looked at something on the internet because it’s the latest internet craze. The term “going viral” isn’t new to us anymore. The question now becomes what’s the secret to making something so popular on the web that literally millions of people watch it almost instantly? We asked ourselves the same question.

In digging a bit deeper one of the key aspects that ensures something goes viral is appealing to people’s narcissistic side. Invoking feelings of awe, laughter, or pride — things that bring about strong emotions are much more likely to go viral. Buzzsumo analyzed the top 10,000 most shared articles across the web and mapped which emotion it brought about. The graphic below is a breakdown of the most popular emotions that viral content brought about:

Popular Emotions


As you can see the three emotions viral content elicits are:

  • Awe
  • Laughter
  • Amusement

In stark contrast the  least popular emotions were sadness and anger, which made up only about 7% of the total.

WHY do people share things that elicit emotions? The New York Times did a little research on this and found five significant reasons why people share stories online:

  1. People just want to share entertainment. They want to bring entertainment to their friends, so they share stuff that entertains themselves, hoping it will do the same for their friends.
  2. To bring identity to themselves. They want people to know WHO they are, so they share stuff that they feel defines them.
  3. To feel involved. Sometimes you just want to feel like you are part of something bigger that yourself.
  4. To spread the word. Just like #3, people want to get the word out on something they care about so they can contribute to a larger cause.

Sharing something entertaining on facebook, twitter, or instagram fulfills something in people by bringing about a reaction from others and starting conversations. It shows people you have great taste, and they will be more likely to visit or look at other content you might share. Which only perpetuates viral content–and extremely fast.

In the Buzzsumo study, they also found that people also share out of pure self-absorption. 80% of the content shared in the last 8 months were those quizzes that tells us who we think we are. It spurs our identity and ego. It lets people know how cool we really are deep down without us having to be too vulnerable.

So what can you as a business learn from this?

Be entertaining and appeal to people’s emotions.

Post a quiz that tells people more about themselves… works every time.

Take a stand. Let people know where you stand on an issue and it’s sure to get shares, especially if it’s a highly controversial issue.