Viral Content Roundup: The bipolar emotional response to the Orlando tragedy

It is common discourse that there is no guaranteed method for creating viral content.

However, the consensus among the myriad of How to Create Viral Content guides out there is that there is one integral element that most viral content has: emotional potency.

A look at what had gone viral across social media last week showed a crowded landscape. The majority of viral content related to the horrific massacre in Orlando. And this week shows practically the same.

This is not hugely surprising considering the gravity a tragedy such as the Orlando shootings has. It reverberated across the world. What is interesting though is the shift in tone of the viral content from last week.

Much of the most shared content this week reveals a very clear dichotomy in the emotional factors driving the story.

This could be very enlightening when it comes to understanding how viral media could be a useful tool within your content marketing strategy.

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This week’s most shared content around the Orlando shootings reveals a very different picture from last. This exposes something very interesting about bipolar emotions and their role in creating viral content.

In 1980, psychologist Robert Plutchik developed the ‘wheel of emotions’ – a diagram that illustrates the relationship of emotions.

It dictates that the most ‘potent’ emotions are those in the second circle of the wheel: joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger, and anticipation.

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What is most pertinent about Plutchiks ‘wheel of emotions’ that it shows how emotions are bipolar: they each have an polar opposite.

This illustrates how interconnected our emotional responses are. Rarely are emotions simple and defined. Often they are in response to a conflicting feeling.

Content that plays with this bipolar nature of emotions in a deliberate way can be very powerful.

One of the key factors contributing to viral media is emotional energy: content that elicits a strong emotional response is more likely to be shared than ‘beige’ content.

Furthermore, if this emotional response adheres the interconnectedness of Pluchik’s wheel, it’s viral potency grows.

The response to the Orlando shootings is a great example of this.

viral contentAccording to Buzzsumo, the number of shares of the top content about the Orlando shootings are massive; close to million overall shares in just a week.

Take a quick look at them. It only takes a glance to spot a trend running through these pieces: they are all really emotionally positive articles.

Humans have an incredible ability to overcome adversity and turn it on its head. An act as vile and hateful as the Orlando shootings, with as many layers and social triggers, is assured to elicit a response as equally powerful – only opposite.

Content that provokes acute positive emotions has proven to be more virally viable than content that doesn’t.

However, content that is positive in response to something negative proves to be even more virally potent.

Take for example the first article on the Buzzsumo list above: a perfect representation polar emotions.

The story details how activist organisation Anonymous hacked pro-ISIS Twitter account and made it as “fabulously gay as humanly possible.” 

The interplay of emotions here is palpable: the contrasting colours of the ‘evil’ black of ISIS, marked against the bright, flamboyant colours of the LGBT flag and the pink dressing gown is just the start of it.

A piece like this is so powerfully bipolar that it screams to be shared, and in light of the current climate regarding worldwide terrorism, is a ray of sunshine.

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Moving down the list, the second most shared piece is in regards to the reaction against anti-gay Westboro church protesters who picketed at the funeral of Orlando shooting victim Christopher Andrew Leinonen.

This hateful act was subsequently met with counter-protesters, who stifled the vehemence of the Westboro Church activists, blocking them out with a powerful symbol – angel wings.

Again the visual dichotomy in the piece is the most immediately striking: the typical spiteful protestor group, with pickets and abhorrent slogans versus the pure, clean, symbolically-rich ‘angels’.

The story weaves through these bipolar emotions even more, detailing the unbelievably hateful acts of the Westboro Church protesters. This serves to inspire sadness and disgust in readers.

The story then takes a turn, revealing the admirable acts of the ‘angel’ protestors, and how they inevitably forced the Westboro members to leave – thus inspiring joy and admiration in the reader.

Again, this kind of emotionally bipolar content begs to be shared. The interplay of emotions is extremely powerful in rousing a response from readers, encouraging them to spread the sentiment as their own way to combat the antagonism of hateful acts like the Orlando shooting.

Last week, the world was still reeling from the Orlando tragedy, as was illustrated by the most shared content around the world. But as people recovered from the shock, the reactions stared to flow in, and the tone of viral content shifted massively.

The interplay of emotions in these pieces is quite enlightening about the simple psychology of viral content. It can be seen quite clearly in all of the most shared content around the Orlando shootings this week.

Although a piece of content that is positive – and thus quite sharable – is good, it’s these types of content that create emotional flux in readers, yet leave them ultimately feeling good, that have the most viral potency.

This could be very important when it comes to creating content in your digital strategy.

Digital strategy is the process of carefully considered digital marketing methods that when combined help grow your business. Each industry and client is different and therefore require a uniquely tailored approach.

With clients as diverse as a Sydney urologist, a Lebanese Pizzeria, a top Australian music blog, and one of Australia’s biggest flooring companies, we know the importance of bespoke digital strategy.

Where to from here? We’d love to hear about your business and help you achieve your highest brand potential. Please feel free to call us on +61 (0) 2 9519 9922 or email [email protected]

by Radi Safi

Radi Safi is the Creative Director at IYBI. In 2012 he launched Happy, a music blog and media company.
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