Smithsonian magazine recently featured a study from Beihang University in China about which emotions spread the fastest online. Researchers tracked emiticons as the posts that they were embedded in spread on Sina Weibo, the Twitter-esque microblogging site in China. They found that sadness and disgust did not travel very quickly, and although joy faired faster and farther, nothing beats anger when you’re trying to get a message to go viral.
The study found that users are more likely to pass along angry posts not just to “express their anger,” but to instill a sense of outrage with the folks on the platform. A professor at the Wharton School, Jonah Berger, observed similar findings when studying the sharing habits of New York Times articles.
Berger notes that “high-arousal” emotions drive people to take action. Sadness makes folks withdrawn, and therefore that emotion is unlikely to go viral. But anger activates people to share more. On a more positive note, Berger found that the one emotion that garnered more shares than anger was awe: “the feelings of wonder and excitement that come from encountering great beauty or knowledge.”
CEB Market Insights members, check out our Social Media topic center to learn more about how organizations use social media activity in their decision-making process. What we know: MI professionals who gain the most from the medium forgo broad monitoring initiatives for a hypothesis-based search process.