Porter Novelli

sxsw 2016Many of us have dreamed of our content or ideas going viral. Interestingly, there’s a science behind what makes for a viral moment. However, this isn’t an exact science. To simplify their research, the panelists, including Upworthy’s research scientist, Sean Wojick and Google’s head of strategic planning, Abigail Posner, explored the dynamics between shareable and clickable content as they relate to virality. I found these to be useful comments to think about when creating client key messages and content that surrounds these messages.

Shareable content is inherently:

  • Public
  • An expression of identity
  • A representation of our “ideal self” or “moral self”: We only share the best representation of who we are—what we share reflects our motivations and we’re mindful about how others will view us through what we share
  • A mode of self enhancement
  • What we find surprising, interesting and/or useful

Clickable content is inherently:

  • Private: The content people click on, reflects private interests—you wouldn’t feel comfortable revealing/sharing everything you click
  • A reflection of curiosity
  • A sharing of information
  • A form of entertainment
  • A representation of our “actual self” à who we really are
  • A “self-verification” motive
  • (the things people click are not necessarily correlated with things they’d share)


  • Synaptic Play: Putting seemingly different concepts together that erupt and change, morph it something new
  • Energy Exchange: Things that make us crack up; capture us – the way baby return our smiles, for example
  • Fascination with the familiar: Content that helps elevate the everyday. Remember the viral blue/gold dress dilemma? Also, content that shows us how to view something simple in a new light



  • (#CLICKS/IMPRESSION) X (#SHARES/CLICK) X (#IMPRESSIONS/SHARE):  Viral coefficient above 1.0 = viral
  • Every platform has its “culture”: Facebook generally moves happy content to the viral realm; Twitter for snarky content


  • Visceral: The success offood porn”, for example; we see it and are immediately engaged
  • Sharability: Reflective of the quality of the content
  • Not overly packaged (click bait): Authentic content people can use and want to share