How can businesses create digital marketing material that is most likely to go viral? The key is evoking specific emotions that make people want to share. But what those emotions are and how you spark them varies depending on your audience’s age and gender.
A study by Fractl and researchers at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, USA, revealed that “high-arousal emotions” are key to inspiring people to share online content. Overall, content that is most likely to go viral tends to evoke positive emotions and feelings of surprise.
But a deeper look at the study data reveals that not every segment of an audience responds the same way to digital content.
“If there’s one thing that businesses of any size can learn from this study, it’s that understanding nuances in the segments of your audience can make a big difference in your marketing efforts,” Fractl’s Marketing VP and partner Kelsey Libert tells Small Business Center.
In a piece for Harvard Business Review, Libert looks at how age and gender affect the potential for marketing content to have appeal broad enough to go viral.
One of her most important insights is that younger and older audiences perceive online content very differently. Younger people don’t respond to still photos as positively as older audience members do. Businesses therefore need to go beyond photos to reach younger audiences. This means trying more dynamic visual formats, such as video and multimedia. Additionally, content that will go viral with the younger crowd should be designed to surprise the audience in novel ways.
In a good example, Diageo -owned vodka brand Cîroc launched a campaign in Western Europe that targeted Instagram users with both a video and a “cinemagraph” (animated stills published as gifs) campaign. Over 1.2million users saw these videos every day for six weeks; adding up to an astonishing level of coverage only increased by sharing on the social network.
Men’s and women’s responses didn’t differ as much as those across age groups, but the research results do reveal some important distinctions. Viral content evokes more emotions of joy in men, while women’s positive responses tend to be more associated with trust. Women also experienced more emotions in general when looking at shareable content.
These results suggest that designing content that men will share requires focusing on sparking joy, while it is important to offer a sense of trustworthiness to women. Content that evokes complex emotions will also be more likely to capture women’s attention.
For example, Dove UK’s “Real Beauty” campaign was launched over 10 years ago, and still remains one of the most-talked about campaigns in advertising. The multimedia project aimed to show women’s real bodies and has often confronted complex topics head on, such as the idea that “women are their own worst critics.” This complicated interplay of emotions and honesty has seen the target audience respond so enthusiastically that Doves’ sales have jumped over £1bn and nearly every video gone viral.
Libert says customizing your messaging for each audience segment can be most easily accomplished via social media. Using Twitter for Business allows you to direct different messages to men and women, and Facebook can help you target various age groups. Email marketing efforts can be segmented and customized as well.
Libert also suggests that it is important to reach audiences at all stages of the buying cycle, even when they aren’t primed to purchase. Cultivating long-term brand loyalty is the goal.
“Content marketing can make a big impact for every stage of the buying cycle; when done well, it can lead to increased sales both now and in the long term,” says Libert.
Sales flow from customers you’ve managed to reach and to move. When contemplating new content to move young people and women, think novel, inventive, authentic, and complex. For older people and men, think positive, delightful, and inspiring.