The NYTimes recently covered researchout of the University of Pennsylvania to understand the drivers of the NYTimes "most-emailed" list which appears on their site and reflects what stories readers are sending around the most.
I continue to believe that psychology is the next rediscovered territory for marketers. With all this talk about behavioral marketing you would think psychology is downright passe. My team at Ogilvy has been spending a fair amount of time re-examining Cialdini's drivers of influence and persuasion in relation to social media. Here is a crude juxtaposition of Cialdini's concepts against a social media context.
How does influence get played out online? Through some form of sharing or word of mouth. It's useful to understand what really drives people to share.
The Penn researchers, Jonah Berger and Katherine A. Milkman uncovered some pleasant surprises.
"People preferred e-mailing articles with positive rather than negative themes, and they liked to send long articles on intellectually challenging topics.
Perhaps most of all, readers wanted to share articles that inspired awe, an emotion that the researchers investigated after noticing how many science articles made the list. In general, they found, 20 percent of articles that appeared on the Times home page made the list, but the rate rose to 30 percent for science articles, including ones with headlines like “The Promise and Power of RNA.” "
Sharing articles or any digital content or references is a form of word of mouth. The implicit or explicit endorsement of a peer packs a lot of trust and cuts through the "message shield" that we all form around ourselves.
"They used two criteria for an awe-inspiring story: Its scale is large, and it requires “mental accommodation” by forcing the reader to view the world in a different way.
“It involves the opening and broadening of the mind,” write Dr. Berger and Dr. Milkman, who is a behavioral economist at Wharton."
They dive deeper in the study itself which you can access here.
"Awe may be linked to social transmission for a number of reasons. First, awe encourages people to connect with others and spread the word. People who have had epiphanies through drug use or religious experiences, for example, seem to have a deep need to talk about them or proselytize (James 1902; Keltner and Haidt 2003). Other types of awe-inducing experiences may activate the same psychological mechanisms evoked by epiphanies. Second, awe inducing stimuli also tend to be entertaining, inspiring, and contain a great deal of information. Each one of these aspect in itself is a reason that people may share things. Third, because awe-inducing experiences are characterized by the accommodation of existing mental structures, they should be particularly likely to drive people to talk to others to understand how they feel (Rime, Mesquita, Philippot, and Boca 1991). Finally, awe-inducing experiences encourage people to look beyond themselves and deepen connections to the broader social world (Shiota, Keltner, and Mossman 2007). All of these factors suggest that awe should lead
people to want to share."
One of Emanuel Rosen's key drivers of Word of Mouth is "story." Now lets add emotion and awe to that list.