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The Internet is hungry for positive viral media and businesses should feed it

Facebook's thumb at a South by Southwest venue
Facebook's thumb at a South by Southwest venue
Photo by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images

Moods may be contagious on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, just as they are in corporeal reality. A new study suggests that when users generate social media content of a certain emotional tone, other users will reciprocate with content that matches the emotional tone.

Another study shows that this effect appears to be stronger when the social media content is positive, thus hinting at an incipient market for positive viral media that users within social networks can share. Adept businesses should produce, or partner with producers of, viral media with a positive emotional tone to increase online traffic for advertisements on social networks and thus increase online sales.

In a study conducted last year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, researchers found that when content with a positive emotional tone was posted on social networks it was more likely than negative content to generate responses from other users.

For example, when a Facebook user shares a positive article, it is more likely to prompt a response from other users than if the shared post carries a negative emotional tone. Researchers reasoned that this effect is due to the fact that users prefer to purvey a positive self-image online through the content they create and/or share.

Some online players are beginning to capitalize on the Internet’s demand for positive media. Upworthy, a site with a mission to “make important stuff as viral as a video of some idiot surfing off his roof” according to its website, grew to over six million unique visitors per month in the United States by the end of 2013, according to Compete.com. (To put this into perspective, theChive.com, a popular site centered on humor and entertainment, was bringing in roughly two million unique visitors per month by the end of 2013, according to Compete.com.)

As another example of viral media with a positive tone, one of Buzzfeed’s most-viewed posts is one titled ‘21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity.’ These sites are capitalizing on the Internet’s demand for viral media with a positive emotional pitch, however the market for such content appears to remain largely untapped.

But certain new players are entering the market for positive viral media. Like A Boss started sharing videos that feature individuals engaging in acts of kindness or seizing the moment, so to speak, in February of 2013.

According to the Like A Boss team, the mission of the site is to permeate videos of people “seizing the moment” in the hope that these videos will inspire others to do the same. Since its inception in February of last year, the site grew to roughly 530 thousand unique monthly visitors in the United States by the end of 2013, according to Compete.com.

So, since moods within social networks are contagious, and because social network users prefer to view and share media that engenders a positive mood, there is a market for positive viral media that remains largely untapped. Businesses seeking to raise brand awareness or promote a product, should capitalize on the Internet's demand for positive viral content by generating their own positive viral media or by partnering with online players already producing it.

Content of a positive emotional tone will be seen and engaged by more online users than negative or sarcastic content. Any business selling products online could increase impressions for online advertisements and drive sales by piggybacking on the positive viral media movement.