The Emotions That Drive Video Sharing

Videos that elicit positive emotions such as exhilaration and hilarity get 40 percent more shares than videos with negative themes such as shock, fear or anger.

*the epic split video by Volvo Trucks featuring Jean Claude Van Damme ranks No. 1 in Unruly’s 10 Most Exhilarating Ads of 2013 with more than 2.67 million shares.

Senior research associate at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science, Dr. Karen Nelson-Field, spent two years trying to identify how emotions influence video sharing.

Nelson-Field used a large data set of user-generated content combined with 355 billion branded videos from social video marketing analytics platform, Unruly. She placed emotions into four groups based on constructs found in psychological literature: high and low arousal positive, and high and low arousal negative.

Positive emotions such as exhilaration and hilarity elicit 40 percent more shares than video content with negative themes such as shock, fear or anger. But any strong emotional pull — whether positive or negative — is twice as likely to be shared than content that provokes a weak emotional response.

Videos that focus on exhilarating emotions such as personal triumph are shared the most, followed by hilarity. In terms of recall, 65 percent of videos that elicited a feeling of exhilaration were most remembered. Hilarity, by contrast, aided recall in 51 percent of the videos.

Although high-arousal positive emotions resulted in the most shares, nearly 80 percent of them did not include the degree of emotion necessary to drive sharing. Safer bets for video sharing include science, weather and nature-orientated video content. Bad news for adorable cats and celebrities.

It’s also important to know your market. What you consider hilarious or inspirational may not translate to your audience. When developing time- and money-driven video projects, focus groups will help you determine if the content strikes a chord with your audience.

Different kinds of people may have stronger responses to various emotions. A 28-year-old, single female may respond differently to a message than a 28-year-old, stay-at-home mother. A lawyer may respond differently to a particular emotion than a nurse.

It also takes time to arouse emotion. Videos two to three minutes in length tend to be more effective than videos such as Vines that are six-seconds in duration. After the three-minute mark, however, there is a diminishing effect — people get bored.

Recall should also help viewers remember your brand as well the video, but Nelson-Field found that most videos are under-branded. According to Unruly:

There is no relationship between how much sharing across the social Web a video achieves and the level of branding used. Nor does overt branding make a video less emotionally impactful.

So when you consider that the average social video has one third of the branding of an average TV commercial, it’s a huge opportunity for marketers looking to make the most of the social Web.

Unruly suggests focusing on the quality of reach by “reaching out to light and medium buyers outside of owned social media channels” and not to under-invest in distribution by over-investing in creative: “Seeding your campaign across a variety of platforms will make it easier to deliver good sharing metrics over a shorter period of time.” Posting a variety of videos to a well-established fan base on Twitter and Facebook is like preaching to the choir.

Jonah A. Berger and Katherine L. Milkman of the University of Pennsylvania found that the emotion-sharing connection applies to other types of content as well, such as news stories, where positive emotion led to increased sharing.

Recommended articles