THE BLOG
10/22/2014 06:02 pm ET Updated Dec 22, 2014

The 4 Types of Viral Content: A Study Based on 300 Social Media Accounts

The 4 Types Of Viral Content - A Study Based on 300 Social Media Accounts

Recently our team at Computan studied 300 social media accounts on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram to identify patterns about what kind of content gets shared the most. Just like some movie genres (eg; summer super hero movies) sell more tickets than others there must be some rhyme or reason as to why some content gets shared more than others. Our data mining team evaluated the social media accounts from large corporations, small businesses, non-profits, celebrities and individuals (people in our social circles). The sample size was the 10 most and least liked/viewed/Tweeted/shared contributions for each of the 300 social media accounts sampled. We found that most posts across all the accounts could be classified into 4 general categories ranked below.

1 -Humorous - Funny content was the most heavily engaged. This could be funny pictures, videos, text or likewise. A humorous piece was the most likely to get watched, shared, liked, retweeted or commented on. Everyone likes to laugh.

Businesses that add humor to their posts generate a lot more engagement. K-Mart"s ad about free in-store shipping caused over 9 million YouTube viewers to ship their pants with laughter.

2 - Emotional - Content that elicited a strong positive or negative emotional reaction. For example, posts about goodwill (fundraising, religious, charitable acts), life-altering events (marriage, child birth) or social injustices. People can easily get behind a good cause and see little risk in doing so. You probably took the ALS challenge even if you don't know how to spell it. Religious posts - content from scholars, priests etc; in various faiths were also very popular. Varun Pruthi, an Indian film actor, has started a charitable movement that will make you re-think your priorities and is impossible to dislike.

Try sharing some good deeds you do every day with your following. Talk about the positive emotions your product or solution provides its users. A Dentist office can post about how they've helped homeless people with their teeth. An immigration law office can post about how they reunite families.

3 - Polarizing/Newsjacking - Content that took a strong stance on one side of a particular socioeconomic, political or current event. Usually there are strong voices on either side of these issues (think same-sex marriage, war, income equality and racism) which leads to massive debate and content engagement. Newsjacking, taking a particular current event and applying your opinion to it based on your expertise, is also increasingly popular. A blog post offering expertise from a nurse treating Ebola patients can easily generate huge engagement numbers at the right time. It makes sense for you to comment on an issue or current event if that event hits home or is specifically relevant to you. Just be careful about alienating yourself from other points of view.

4 - Bragging/Promotional - In most cases this content was shared the least. The information may be good-to-know, but doesn't emit a response from users. There are some exceptions to the rule (movie trailers, coupon codes and special offers), but generally people are not interested in hearing about new offices opening, a new customer you signed or how much money you make. Even if you're hiring. These posts represented a good portion of contributions (particularly from business accounts), but had very little engagement. Our study shows that your digital contributions should be more than a binder of information on your past and present. Save that for the Biography Channel.

These categories are definitely general and the study we did certainly has its limitations, but don't be fooled. A steady diet of humorous, heartfelt and timely contributions will result in an engagement uptick.

Leaving you with more hits and less flops.

About the Author:

Sajeel Qureshi is the VP of Operations at Computan, a digital marketing and software company. Computan serves as the digital department for numerous businesses throughout the globe ranging from start-ups to multinationals.

He has a degree in Business Administration from St. Bonaventure University and MBA from Eastern Illinois University. Sajeel plays tennis well enough to convince the untrained eye that he knows what he is doing and poor enough that the trained eye submits him to a drug test.