What Makes a Social Post Go Viral?

Virus diagram

Here’s a summary of an insightful Buffer post with an analysis of what elements of content most encourage different demographic groups to share it. The type of content used in the study was images.

Three Common Elements for Viral Content

  1. Positive feelings (joy, interest, anticipation, trust)
  2. Emotional complexity (both positive and negative emotions elicited)
  3. Surprise

Millennials Harder to Engage

Eighteen to 34-year-olds are inundated with a lot of content aching to grab their attention, so they are frankly a little more jaded. Adding the element of surprise and dynamism to your content can overcome this fatigue and help you engage with the younger generation.

Men Respond to Joy; Women Respond to Trust

The differences were pretty slight though. And working in a blend of emotions is key to enticing a person of either gender to share.


Make emotionally complex, dynamic content that elicits positive feelings and an element of surprise.

Here’s a slideshow summary of the findings:

via Emotions Research
Source: The Science of Viral Content: Which Emotions Make Us Share?, Kelsey Libert, http://blog.bufferapp.com.