• Nishtha Sharma

Why Things Get Viral On Social Media?

Updated: Jul 16, 2018

Decoding the psychology behind sharing viral content on social media




Just drop everything that you’re doing right now. And for a moment just sit & ask yourself this question, ‘Why do we share certain things on social media?’ There is no secret formula for your content to go viral. In fact, going viral involves various factors and we’re here to share the psychology behind it.


Dr. Berger has spent over 15 years studying how social influence works and how it drives products and ideas to catch on. In his book ‘Contagious: Why Things Catch On’ (2013) he wrote about 6 reasons ‘why things get viral on social media’.


We'll take a look at the most viral social media content in the past couple of years and break down the similarities in those posts so you can apply the same techniques to your own content.


In this post you’ll come across some ‘STEPPS’ that’ll help you make your content go viral on social media platforms.

STEPPS’ stand for:-


S- Social Currency

T- Triggers

E- Emotions

P- Public

P- Practical Value

S- Stories


First thing’s first. Why do people share things on social media? The basic psychology behind sharing is that, it makes them look good. This is where our first ‘STEPPS’ comes, Social Currency. People share things that make them look good. They brag about things they’re doing or own. We see a lot of examples around us about this everyday.


We often see our friends or people we know either share a story or post on Instagram or Facebook of positive & motivational quotes( by Jay Shetty, GarryVee, Gaur Gopal Das etc), unboxing their new phones (iPhone/ Pixel), watching a trending web series(Netflix) or sport(FIFA), saturday night celebrations (Clubbing), vacation photos (abroad), OOTD (branded clothes and accessories), posting images of their significant other (newly weds, boyfriends or girlfriends), dining experiences (expensive or trending restaurant or club), emotional festivals (Mother’s day or Father’s day), fitness regime (gym, supplements, before & after images) and the list is endless.


Just think what’s the basic idea behind sharing all of these on social media?

It is extremely important that your product’s design and idea is triggered by the environment. And this is the second ‘stepps’. ‘Trigger’. For example whenever we see a little girl with black hair, white dress with red polka dots we immediately associate it withAmul’ advertisement or notice. Similarly, there are a lot of brands, tv channels/shows/movies/ ads which can be easily identified rather associated by their ad sound.


For example theme song of Superman, Jurassic Park, Friends, Nirma detergent, Vodafone zoozoo series, Paytm, Titan watches, Nescafe Coffee, Uber and the list goes on. What’s the common thing among the above mentioned? We associate with these brands, movies or web series because of their signature tune which keeps it on top of our minds. This happens with logos too. When we see a tick, the first brands that comes in our mind is Nike’. Six rings- ‘Audi’, Colourful rings- ‘Olympics’, Yellow ‘M’- ‘Mcdonalds’, half eaten apple- ‘Apple products and there are literally a zillion examples.


The basic idea is that, your product or service or whatever you’re selling should be so simple or catchy that your TA is able to associate with it.

Another reason why people rigorously share content on social media is ‘Emotion’. Play with the right emotion and your content will go viral overnight! There are ‘n’ number of examples which explain this ‘STEPPS’ accurately.


For example- Dabur’s Vatika hair oil ran a campaign for cancer survivor women- #BraveAndBeautiful (Strength), Google ran an ad showing two friends separated during Indo-Pak partition 1946- #Reunion (Friendship), Ariel detergent launched an ad campaign #ShareTheLoad (Care), United Colours of Benetton made an ad campaign #UnitedByHalf (Equality), Dove launches a beautiful advertisement ‘Real Beauty Sketches’ (You’re more beautiful than you think). All these advertisements and campaign were successful because they played the emotional card.


To make your content work or go viral, you need to know what’s your TA and according to that decide which emotion to play with.


Then comes ‘Public’. In layman’s language it can be referred to as ‘Mob Mentality’. It is basic human behaviour to do what others are doing. For example- When H&M was launched in India, it was insanely crowded. Why? Because everyone had been talking about it. Either on social media or word of mouth, the buzz was all around. Whenever we see a restaurant, shop or salon or any ‘xyz’ place loaded with people it generates a sense of curiosity in us. Even if the thing is not of our interest, we’ll visit that place at least once! Same concept goes for products too.


Be it iPhone, Macbook, Mac cosmetics, Kylie cosmetics, Nike, eos cosmetics, Fit-bit, VANS white sneakers, shop at Forever21 just to get that yellow shopping bag or apps use like Tinder, Snapchat, Zomato, Swiggy and the list goes on.

In order to make your product go viral you need to make a marketing strategy that’ll create ‘mob mentality’ among your TA.


Now, comes the part where everything depends on how you present your content to you viewers. It is very essential that whatever you’re selling should be easy to perceive. This is our fifth ‘STEPPS’- Practical Value’. You don’t want your audience to google before they consume your product or use your service.


This can be explained via a lot of examples. Why ‘Tasty’, ‘Troom Troom’, ‘Food Network’, ‘5 Minutes Craft’, ‘So Yummy and similar pages have millions of views on their videos? It is because it is making people’s life easy and effortless. People like to be helped. Offer your audience high value content. It is not necessary that you have to be a food blogger or DIY guru to make your content go viral! You need to make your content crisp and to the point. It should be formatted in a way that it hits your audience where it should.


Lastly comes your customer stories. What your audience says about you. How being a part of your company’s family makes them feel. Basically success stories. Tell your audience how you stand out. What your employees did or your company did to make your customers feels special or touches. For example- the story of a Wendy’s employee went viral when in the middle of a pretty harsh rainstorm, he went outside, removed an umbrella from one of the tables, and walked an elderly man to his car. The story of Domino’s delivery man when he had to walk half- mile to make the delivery after his car broke down. The area wasn’t safe for walking, particularly for a deaf person, but he wanted to make sure he made the delivery. The customer was so touched that, in addition to the tip, she set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for the drivers’ car repairs. There are a lot of such examples.


Hence it is extremely important to take care of your customer even after they’ve purchased your product or used your service. Make your customers feel loved!

Now you have a perfect guide to get the maximum reach by making your content go viral!


Rest, you can always reach out to us! :)

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