HBR: The Three Scientific (and Quite Surprising) Factors that Make a Message Go Viral

Srini Pillay (Clinical Professor at Harvard Medical School, teacher, and author), writes about a study in Harvard Business Review, where an MRI scan is used to test for correlations between neural activity and sharing content.

A recent study demonstrated that we can successfully predict which messages will go viral and which will not. This study showed that the ideas that are destined to spread have a characteristic signature at their origin — that is, quite literally, within the brain of the sender. These messages specifically activate key regions in two circuits in the sender’s brain: the “reward” circuit, which registers the value of the message to the sender, and the “mentalizing” circuit, which activates when we see things from the point of view of the person who receives the message…

…The more you value an idea that you want to spread, the more likely you are to be successful at spreading it.  In addition, the more accurately you can predict how others will feel about the message, the more likely you are to be successful at spreading this idea. These findings are profound because they imply that we can predict which messages will go viral…

…when you also register that your actual value is that you are investing in helping to cure people from their illnesses or shorten their durations of suffering (“y”).  You may not be right all the time, but if this is your genuine reward, your brain’s reward circuit will be activated because this will always be true

How will they feel about the fact that you have a history of success in biotechnology investing? How will they feel about their own investment in the well-being of the world? Do they care about communicating this to their families? Would they be excited about the rapid advancements in this field and seeing the newness of the opportunity? Here again, these different aspects of how your audience thinks will help to accentuate the activation in your mentalizing circuit — where you form a mental picture of the audience’s needs and wants.

it would make a difference if he or she actually wanted to spread the message rather than just passively feeling that the message is valuable. This implies that it matters when you think of how a message can be useful to others rather than simply thinking about yourself.

All three factors (value, mentalizing, and intention to spread) point to the fact that the social currency of a message matters at the very source of the message.

On one hand, my initial reaction is that this is too idealistic.

However, the researcher in me can’t argue with experimental data.  Which is why the article leads me to self-reflect.  Oftentimes, I do blog with the objective of just shouting into the void.  Of curation. Very self-focused objectives.  When, if people (including me) and brands would start growing a sincere interest in being useful…maybe, that is all that really matters.


BuzzFeed’s Olympics Coverage: Sports for the Internet Generation

*Feature image from SB Nation

Only got around to surfing about the Olympics today.

And boy, was I happy to see BuzzFeed.

What do I mean by saying “Sports for the Internet Generation”?

It takes advantage of the main strengths of the web – heavy on visuals (lots of GIFs!!!); always involving storytelling and just — “human”.  They’re always either funny, cheeky, sexy or intriguing.

Deadspin has interesting features, too.  But for some reason, they feel a bit staid.

Some of my favorites from BuzzFeed:

1. Usain Bolt’s Historic, Theatrical 100m Victory In Pictures

by Mark Blinch – Reuters

Compare that to Deadspin’s Usain Bolt Outruns Human Nature.

2.  Gabby Douglas’s All Around Gymnastics Gold in GIFs

3.  Completely Disorienting Synchronized Swimming Photos

4.  Olympic Booty Appreciation

5.  The Complete Guide To Olympic Sneakers

6.  Where Are They Now? The 1996 Olympic Gymnastics Team

7.  32 Super Hot Pictures of the German Men’s Gymnastics Team

by Mike Blake – Reuters

8.  14 Adorkable Photos of the US Olympic Team Dancing

9.  Ryan Lochte’s 18 Fashion Rules

“8. Wear sparkly sneakers.”

by Jeff Haynes, Reuters

10.  And one of my favorite features:

27 Things to Love about Tomaz Gonzalez

Deadspin has its fair share of fun gymnastics articles, too. Like:

Olympic Gymnast Hair, An Appreciation

And the almost seemingly exclusivist, but possibly well-meaning:

Black Gymnasts Who Kicked Ass for Team USA

(I don’t know whether they were thinking that this would honor the gymnasts.  But deliberately mentioning how few and rare they were, almost seemed to emphasize that it was a white-woman dominated sport.

It was like the Serena Williams crip-walking incident.  You see that hurdler dancing before she ran, but it just made her seem like a sex symbol.  Why does Willams’ dance have to be political?  Of course, you don’t see people making articles entitled “Black women who kicked ass in tennis”.  I’m confused.

Maybe they should make a White Men/Women Who Kicked Ass in Basketball for Team USA article.)

If there’s anything that I can clearly see about the change in treatment and response between the 2012 Olympics and prior Games, is the well more light-hearted, multi-dimensional and “sexy-fied” treatment of the athletes.

I’m not complaining; I think it’s cool.  It points to the “celebrit-ization” of sport; of fitness.  And the Internet amplifies that.  In the same way that actors, musicians can now show facets of their lives online, why not athletes.  They’re young, fit – basically, in the prime of their life.  So of course they’ll have a possible market for people who want to look at their bodies, make fun of their weird fashion choices, or just want to admire their technical competence.  Hooray, Olympics+Social Media+Aggregators!