Sharable Content: The Emotional Appeal

Apr 14

With all the craze over viral content, here’s how to ensure that you produce content that makes people want to share.

In general, positive messages do better than negative ones.

Framing something in a positive light often gives people the feel-good attitude that makes them want to pass on the optimism. A recent New Yorker article reported that articles with titles like “Wide-Eyed New Arrivals Falling in Love with the City” were more popular and shared than sad articles like “Baby Polar Bears’ Feeder Dies.”

Of course, a big part of these articles’ success is how much their headlines hook the reader. For tips on how to write a newsworthy headline, check out our post on rules to write by.


A strong emotional response elicits more shares than a weak one.

Intense emotional content makes readers more likely to share, even if the emotion is not positive. Posts that excite, righteously enrage, or tickle readers with their adorableness get more shares than those that don’t.

Think about Upworthy’s use of emotional headlines to draw visitors in. A recent video on the site was titled, “This Guy Was Really Nice to a Homeless Little Girl and Got the Best Reward Ever in Return.” The title communicates the video’s positivity and hooks the viewer. Then its content delivers on the headline.

Some emotions convince people not to share.

Some emotions stifle the desire to share. If people feel content or satisfied after reading or watching something, their motivation to share it isn’t as high as in the case of a story that angers or delights them.

People don’t tend to feel the need to share contentment–if you’ve had a normal, uneventful day at work, you aren’t likely to talk much about it. But if you’ve had a great day that was out of the ordinary, you’ll be more likely to tell all your friends about it.

Get emotional to get your followers sharing, and your content might just go viral.

Be the second to comment!

  • Conor Flynn

    This is smart and useful advice for bloggers. Telling a story with a blog post, when possible, is a great way to create the type of emotional appeal referred to in this post. A story can be gripping, memorable, as well as emotional. The form of a story correlates with the hook and continued interest for the reader. The standard progression of introduction (hook), rising action, climax, conclusion is an effective way to hook a reader, sustain interest, and create a strong emotional response in the end. Stories can illicit several different emotions, and I wonder if a post that at once excites but also righteously enrages can provoke a response? Or if a reader would feel their emotions were played with, cheated? When I read a story, I’m much more likely to engage with it on a personal level, and more likely to share it.