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Creating Viral Content? The Secret is Get Contagious...
Last Updated October 11th, 2011

What makes content go viral?

It’s a tough question, but when you look around, there’s some people who are able to craft contagious content every single time.

What’s their secret? Do they know something you don’t?

The answer is Yes! They do!

And while they may not be aware of it, they know how to push the little “traffic buttons” on the internet without fail.

How do I know this? Because I’ve done it… for years. And until recently, I was never able to explain exactly how I was able to do it.

But today, that all changes.

What Makes Online Content Go Viral?

There’s an assistant professor of marketing at the Wharton School of Business who specializes in discovering what makes ideas and products go viral. His name is Jonah Berger (follow him on Twitter here).

He’s been featured in many of the prestigious marketing research journals and publications like the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, The Economist and more.

So, suffice it to say, when he talks or writes, I listen.

Most recently, Jonah Berger co-authored a research paper with Katy Milkman called “What Makes Online Content Go Viral?” and in it, there are insights that you absolutely can’t overlook.

Here’s the highlights:

1. Positive content is more viral than negative content.

(Amazing, right? When you read the news, you’d think that negativity was a must, heh).

2. Content that evoked high arousal emotions—positive or negative—is more viral than content without emotion.

(What’s a high-arousal emotion? Think awe, anger, anxiety, or anything related to the fear of loss)

3. Practically useful content get’s shared.

(That makes sense, right? People like sharing practically useful content to help out their fans and friends)

How to Create Content That Goes Viral

Now that you have the cliffs notes, the question is, how can you craft contagious content? How can you apply these insights directly to your articles?

Well, that’s where I come in. Social Triggers, after all, is all about breaking down insights from academic research, and showing you how it works for your business. 🙂

Positive uplifting content always gets shared. Remember, there’s a lot of unhappy people in the world, and while there are different reasons for being unhappy, content that is uplifting and inspirational helps people get out of their rut… even if it’s only for a few seconds.

However, in my opinion, if you’re looking to generate traffic for business purposes, you’re better off focusing on practically useful content that activates high arousal emotions. It has given me the best results for the last 5 years, and still gives me great results today.

What makes content practical? And how can you activate high arousal emotions?

Keep reading.

How to Prepare Practically Useful Content

When you write an article, and finish the editing process, you’re not done. There’s one final step that you must take, and the funny thing is, almost no one does it.

What’s that step?

You must go through your content, figure out the next actions you want people to take, and finish your article with a section that tells people those next action steps.

It seems so simple, but it’s powerful.

Psychologists have long known that people are bad at applying broad concepts to their own lives. It’s why people know the 80/20 rule, but rarely implement it in their lives and business.

And that’s why this simple “next action” section is so great. You show your readers exactly how to use the content you gave them in their lives. And what happens? They use it… get results… and remember you for it.

Pretty cool, right?

Now let’s talk about high-arousal emotions.

How to Activate High-Arousal Emotions

If your content activates a high-arousal emotion, you’re set. The likelihood of people sharing and talking about your content will increase drastically, as both Jonah Berger found in his research study, and I’ve found through personal experience.

What’s a high-arousal emotion?

For starters, a high arousal emotion can be either positive or negative (both types work). I briefly mentioned some earlier in this article, but here’s a more complete list: awe, anger, anxiety, fear, joy, lust, and of course, surprise.

But this is where things get a little more complicated. While it’s simple to activate these emotions, it’s not easy. You’ve got to think about which emotion you want to target, and hit it perfectly.

Since most people learn by example, let me walk you through one example:

Example: The Content is King “Myth” Debunked

In that article, I challenged the widely accepted assumption that “content is king.”

I cited research that backed up my claim, and the article took off. Thousands of hits and hundreds of retweets and Facebook likes later, I had a viral piece of content on my hands.

Why did it take off?

I had data with surprising results. There were some people that were SHOCKED at what I discovered, and thus they had to share it with their friends and colleagues.

The article also did one other thing though…

That article also pissed off a bunch of people that have parroted the whole notion of “content is king.”

I successfully invoked anger, and the angered people tried to poke holes in my claims. They wrote follow-up articles (scoring me links), left tons of comments (that article has more than 140 comments), and shared it with everyone they knew.

Traffic win.

Now How Can You Activate High Arousal Emotions?

Once you know what triggers a specific emotion, it’s easy to do it.

Question is what triggers specific emotions?

Let me break it down…

The 7 High-Arousal Emotions That Make Your Content Contagious

1. Awe

What’s awe? It’s quite simply something remarkable. Something that people can’t resist commenting on. This can be in the form of a story, a real-life event, or it can also be something as simple as an exhaustive list of 101 links to helpful resources.

See this Twitter Tips page as an example.

2. Anger

When you piss people off, they’ll work hard attain justice. They’ll talk about it on Twitter, write blog posts, and more.

How can you trigger anger? All you have to do is challenge someones beliefs and it’s a sure-thing.

See the Content is King Myth Debunked as an example.

(Note, I don’t recommend you piss people off for fun all the time. It’s a bad marketing strategy).

3. Anxiety

People hate anxiety. What creates anxiety? If you’re writing content that talks about potentially losing out on something, that’s one way. People hate losing things they have.

See the #1 Conversion Killer in Web Design as an example.

4. Fear

Fear is one of the biggest motivators on Earth. It targets the reptilian brain, and people can’t resist but take action when motivated with fear.

What’s an example of fear? You can make people worry that they’re making mistakes they’re unaware of. You can also target the fear of loss (aka limited quantities).

As an example, see the article How Images Improve—Or Destroy—Conversion Rates

5. Joy

What makes people happy? There’s loads of things. It can be something funny, inspiring, or anything that’s positively uplifting.

One of my favorite ways to target the “joy” emotion is by telling a story from my life that I know people can connect with. It really takes advantage of nostalgia and bonds with people who read it.

As an example, you might remember the article where I told the story about my dad and chess.

6. Lust

People can lust for more than just sex. They can lust after money, results, women, men, or anything like that. To target that, you simply need to tantalize readers with potential results.

While I don’t have examples of lust in action at Social Triggers, I’m sure you get the idea :-).

7. Surprise

What surprises people? Anything that goes against their expectations. You can challenge assumptions, and prove them wrong. You can share new ways of doing things, or share results of personal tests.

Overall, this is one of the main high-arousal feelings I target with Social Triggers because it works great. As an example, take a look at my previous article “The Problem with Fast Loading Websites.”

The Bottom Line

Now that you’ve read this article, I want you to remember two things:

When you’re looking to get traffic for your business website, make sure you show people how to implement the advice you give them. Take the time to show them an example, and give them next action steps.

And finally, don’t just write content for the sake of writing content. Always target a high-arousal emotion so you know your content will get shared.

Trust me, it works.

Now I pass it to you. What do you think? How do you use these strategies in your business?

Oh, and don’t forget to share this on Twitter and Facebook and everyone else 🙂

Spread the love!

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145 comments Leave a comment

If you are creating content that nobody reads it then there’s no use of writing. Very well written, informative piece on content marketing Derek. I believe in creating problem-solving and highly informative posts although I don’t expect many shares still I want to add value to people’s lives by creating interesting and debate worthy content.

Sonali Chakrabarti

Just searching the web world for potential tricks for viral content creation and found this one absolutely effective. Thanks for sharing the points, will definitely going to help me a lot for my website’s upcoming viral posts.

John A.

Many thanks Derek.
That was helpful without a doubt in mind.
Other articles i’ve read about “Viral Content” have not really answered the questions as you did in this article.

Keep up the good work.


Its an enlightening article the helps one really focus on what they want to target in regards to capturing peoples emotions and their attention. really gives one the edge to work with


Hello Derek, you have unveiled the real secret of content marketing. Looking out more tips from you.

S. Mar

Thanks for this useful article! You have mentioned very important points. I have seen videos, images and contents very difficult to clarify why and how they went viral!

Aashi Sen

Awesome post. Thank you for sharing such an amazing post . I am glad.


My thoughts…

“negative or positive” the content must be unique & informative and also it should answer all queries of users. Then surely it will go viral


Hi Derek

I’ve created a range of ‘words of wisdom’ quotes/sayings with practical implications. What’s your thoughts of including imagery in the background?
Are they more likely to be shared with a picture and words, certain colours etc. My goal is to have these go viral via Facebook and wanted to know the most effective way to ‘produce’ them.

Appreciate your feedback.


    Hi Lorraine, Image quotes often go viral, we see them all the time. What I will also say is we don’t ever see the ones that don’t. There are hundreds of thousands that don’t.

    To create the optimal conditions to make them go viral, yes make sure there is imagery. Beautiful imagery.
    Secondly though, make sure you size the images for each social network, nothing worse than your quote being cut off because it is the wrong size.

    Hope this helps and good luck, Joy


Bookmarked this badboy. Very simple and practical information.

Joanna Thompson

Interesting- I’ve never really looked at why some content becomes as successful as it does before. All of the reasons do make perfect sense, however, and I’m surprised that more research hasn’t been done about this. Definitely will be keeping this in mind next time I get to writing!


Some very interesting food for thought. have you ever done a split test to compare readers comments against a positive vs negative article?

Loraine Gunyon

Greetings from Idaho! I’m bored to tears at work so I decided to check out your site on my iphone during lunch break. I enjoy the info you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m surprised at how quick your blog loaded on my mobile .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, good site!

Ellen Murphy

I agree, Derek. Social media marketing was created (and has been successful) because humans have an internal drive to interact with each other and be SOCIAL. Too often, companies lose sight of the purpose of social platforms, by just flooding their audience with promotions of their brand, and missing the point of engaging their audience. Brands that have truly successful social campaigns do exactly what you say, and arouse emotions. If the audience doesn’t feel any emotion from your social posts, they will not have any motivation to engage with you, thus your social campaign falls flat.

Angie Hott

Hi Derek,
As a new mom/faith blogger, I hope I am not way out of my league here commenting; but, this post really put some perspective to this whole blogging/marketing business. Thank you for breaking it all down in terms that make sense. Frankly, blogging mystifies me and, in a way, it seems like… where does it all go after one presses the “post” button. Sometimes, I wonder what happens to it all once it is “out there” online. I’m an eager learner without much feedback on my posts; so, you can bet I’ll be reading more of yours.
You made me a subscriber today!

Timothy Reeves

Thanks for this article Derek. I am struggling with direction in my approach to marketing online. This adds one more piece to the puzzle..

Liz Cross

Can you get in touch with me ASAP! I need to talk to you! Liz

kim james

I am learning so much from you. You got me, the very skeptical girl that I am.

Marcelina Hardy

Hi Derek,
I’m a new reader here. I really liked this post because it’s unique from the others I’ve read. I was surprised by the suggestion to stick with positive content because it always seems like people perk up when something negative comes their way. Almost as if they are just waiting for someone to tell them what they did wrong, so they can correct it to reach success. I understand the positive content though because there’s just thousands of images with positive quotes attached to them that get shared so much it’s crazy. I’ll definitely be working on my social media content this year with my clients, so this gives me awesome ideas to put to work. Thanks again for the insight and I’ll see ya around. 🙂


Thanks for the awesome article!


Hey Derek, you have some extraordinarily excellent stuff on your website. I was referred to this article by one of my friends and I happen to read a dozen of them after that in a row. The ones I really liked are “How Images Improve—Or Destroy—Conversion Rates” and the post that talks why surveys don’t work. In fact I loved all of your articles. Already subscribed to your newsletter. Keep up the good work. All the best.

Deborah Cayetano

Thanks for this vital infomatiom. You are so correct.

I realized that I was already creating 2 of the important components, surprise, and awe, when I send out my invitations.

Thank you

Joe Piroli

Good advice, I especially like the “How to Prepare Practically Useful Content” section about showing people how to use the information your giving them rather then just giving them information.

It’s something that is amazingly overlooked. This can be applied broadly speaking to anything. Why send people so much information even if its free especially if you want people to take action when most people simply won’t be able to take action as they don’t know what to do with the information.

Maxwell Ivey

Hello; thanks for sending me this link. I found it very helpful. I can understand how this approach could generate traffic. I see it as a more easily used tool than creating controversy. thanks, max

Sheyi | Ivblogger.com

Derek, why are you so good? I mean why are you the best when it comes to writing epic shits like this?

I’m highly blessed and this is another ebook for me to bookmark and always come back to.

you know what, I’l be sending this to my copy writer to use it as well.



Wow Derek what a powerful article. You do a fantastic job breaking down this into actionable understandeable steps.

I have been blogging for about 3 months now and have never tried to specifically address a particular emotion in my writing. In fact up until I read this I would say I have not tried to target any major emotions.

Yes, I am trying to inspire and motivate people but not by pinpointing and going for a single emotion. I like this a lot. It is a very powerful concept and it is obvious it works.

Annie Andre

All great stuff but the part that was new to me was this
“You must go through your content, figure out the next actions you want people to take, and finish your article with a section that tells people those next action steps.”

DUH, makes perfect sense.

In terms of writing, is their a formula that works better than another, psychologically speaking.

For example AIDA. or….
Danny Iny talks about his formula to write content quickly


This is such an extraordinary post. I’ve been wondering what actually makes a content contagious or viral. Thanks to this post I’ve learned something new about this. I appreciate your concern about the craft behind this stuff.

Social Triggers: Converting An Audience Into Customers With Derek Halpern

[…] Get Press With No Connections How To Craft Contagious Content […]

Clint "the Money Mint" Evans


Just found your blog and listened to your podcasts. Even after being in this game for over 12 years there were insights new to me.

Noticed a broken link to the Wharton pdf.

Quick Google search revealed this link works:


Not a fan of “don’t forget” part of the last sentence in you article because usually I forget when people tell me that :). How about “remember”?

Now about your question, I am going to start thinking about triggering high arousal emotions more often. I will use your information to craft the title of my articles more carefully and add an extra step to my editing process to (just like your title says) craft for contagious content 🙂

And yes, you’re right, sometimes it’s sad when people simply write to create content (just to create content). I’ve done it.

Thank you for the tips. Really like the-preaching after the-doing and you’re a great person to follow. Merry Christmas Derek!

the BOOKStarrr

Does this guy only study stuff that go viral?

(It must be good for these professors… they dont need to go viral themselves)


This is awesome stuff, Derek.

I will definitely be taking these awesome pointers into consideration from now on in writing content. I’m glad that I ran across your site. I look forward to reading more of your stuff.

Shaqir Hussyin

totally AWE content – bookmarked –
i’m in love with this site – pat recommeneded it from SPI



Excellent stuff. Another insightful post.


I love your posts. There is always so many actionable points in fact I have justed hired a VA to add some more sign up boxes on my site and to change my about page based on some recent advice you gave. Thanks for the tips.


By knowing what the people think or react it’s more probable arouse their emotions and attentions.

Now I know…

Great post!


Hi Derek,
I enjoyed your article, not sure about invoking highly negative emotions (I can understand that it would work but would be worried about the consequences) however I agree totally that targeting these high arousal emotions is the way to go. Thank you for the insightful info.

Chris Eh Young

I’m finding your posts very practical and easy to implement. I stole your idea of releasing a bunch of posts in a short span instead of spreading them out that you mentioned on The Rise To The Top interview you did. Great strategy for being “everywhere” all at once.

Off I go to create, share, spread some useful and hopefully contagious content.


Really great article, something I go forward with and action immediately…


I agree. Emotion is an extremely powerful tool both for life and blogging.

From the headlines I’ve read on previous posts on your site you really know how to raise your audiences curiosity.

Thanks for always providing us with great content.

Very useful tips on getting your content to go viral.


Hi Derek, thanks again for sharing such great and useful material for us bloggers. You know videos are just perfect for this type of viral content. People can express themselves much more freely when recording themselves which is why Youtube is becoming massive. This is great insight which to some degree can be easily forgotten amongst bloggers who just focus on educating people After all Blogs are about people’s personalities and the more they shine (express themselves) the better reaction. Total coolness Derek.

Jon Cooper

Wow, this is fantastic. By far one of the best actionable articles on creating great content. Finally, someone went into “how to” create great content instead of “why you should”.


Bookmarked this. Amazing!!!! Thank you for all your wonderful posts!! I love thesis and use your information all the time!

Extreme John

This is such an extraordinary post. I’ve been wondering what actually makes a content contagious or viral. Thanks to this post I’ve learned something new about this. I appreciate your concern about the craft behind this stuff.

Mark McGuinness

Love the 7 emotional triggers. No matter how important/useful your content is, you won’t get nowhere without pushing one of those buttons.

Alan@Lifestoogood The free life, health, business and money coaching site

p.s. do you have an RSS feed I can sign up to? I love your site but would rather get RSS updates than email as my emails are already chocka block 😉

Alan@Lifestoogood The free life, health, business and money coaching site

Hi Derek,

thanks for a great article, I love anything which relates our psychology to the way we do things, it’s a great interest of mine.

That being said I can’t help feeling somehow that ‘deliberately’ targeting or ‘over-targeting’ these emotions rather than just being natural is a little fake (similar to how a good understanding of NLP will teach you how to influence people without them knowing it).

Very interesting stuff though,


Great advice. I do end my posts giving my readers practical guidance and tips to apply the information to their lives. However, have not really implemented your 7- high arousal emotions. Sounds like a great idea – I’ll be trying it in my next post. Thank you!

Pete Sapper

Fantastic post. That’s what I term ‘high value’.

Benny Howe

Great post!

The more I blog, the more info comes my way to increase my blogging potential. The more I research it the more I realise what an art form it is.

I am really getting behind the emotional triggers and trying to implement them in everything I do, so thanks for the content heads up! 🙂


You’ve got good example of a viral content here. That’s great. What’s even great is that you practice what you preach and that makes you even more genuine and reliable. I’ve gotten lots of valuable information here. Thank you.

Michael Fishman

Also: put an alliteration in the title, as Derek dramatically/directly/daringly/definitively did here. 😉 Great piece my friend!

Ron Jesser

Derek- I get the idea behind your article but try as I may, I can’t seem to figure out how I apply that to real estate? I post great articles on my website, I post news and events on my business pages but all to no avail…..I’m going to check out some of the links you mentioned and see what I come up with. Thanks for a great post!

Dr. Bob Clarke

As a Part Time Marketer with a full time job, I must be very selective in how I spend my time. Having found your blog about a month ago and subscribing and receiving your posts by email, I can now say that Social Triggers is now one of my favorite blogs and way to spend my time.

Derek, your posts are informative, cutting edge and “meaty” — long enough to really get into your subject.

In this post, I really found useful the tip about leading your readers to the next step at the end of your blog posts. I have to admit to not doing this routinely, but it makes perfect sense and , going forward I will make more of an effort to not hit publish after I’m done with my post, but to go back and add a Next Steps paragraph or two.

Thanks for leading the way, Derek!

Courtney Ramirez

Great content! I love the examples that you gave. When you can target emotions and bring a reaction from someone, you are creating the conditions to spread your stuff everywhere. This is cornerstone content at its finest.

Randall Wilburn

Hey Derek,

I concur with everyone else…Great Post! I like the flow, cliff notes from the Professors article, and most importantly the action points. You were in the Zone when you wrote this…keep it up and keep sharing such great content.

A fan for life,


David Fallarme

I feel like “Joy” is not a strong enough adjective to describe the level of happiness you need in order for it to go viral.

It really has to border on absolute *delight*, where the viewer/reader is left overflowing with positive emotion. There’s lots of stuff out there that can make you crack a smile, but it’s gotta be either laugh-out-loud (irl) hilarious or super-duper cute to make you want to post it on your wall or pass it on to a friend. Anyone out there trying to make something go viral through “Joy” has to really nail this.

I feel like out of the 7 you outlined, it’s the toughest one to get and have it feel right.

I wrote a post about this topic a while back. Your topic here covers the “whys” whereas I wrote about the “hows” of the virality process, using David After Dentist as a case study.

Great post as always, Derek!

Sean Davis

I’m pretty sure I have a new favorite blog.

Great article, man. I would make a much more interesting comment but I have to check out these other tabs from the links in this post. 🙂


This is great. I just recently publish my blog and needed to know why
It wasn’t getting the feedback as expected. You just gave me the answer.


Great post Derek!

How often can you learn something concrete in a post AND the comments to the post?

This is very timely for me – I just finished a marketing course discussing emotional & psychological triggers in writing but they failed to say HOW to trigger them in a concrete way.

Thanks so much.

    Derek Halpern

    Glad you enjoyed it.


Explanation + Application + Demonstration = Killin’ it on all fronts.

Thanks, Derek.

This one is for printing. 🙂

    Derek Halpern

    Thanks Marlee!

    Been a while since I’ve seen you popping in the comments here. Glad you’re back 😀


I love the element of surprise…this hits home for me as it’s REAL easy for me to do something because someone tells me to, or because the leaders of my industry say it’s a good thing to do. But I’ve seen over and over again that it can get turned up on it’s head (as in your content is king article).

I love articles that make me think and that helps me to not only better myself but also my business. Great article!

    Derek Halpern

    What do you mean turned up on its head?

Jason Fonceca

Good lord, I’m only half-way through this and I had to burst out a comment!

This is phenomenal, Derek, and exactly what I was looking for, thank you!

Can anybody else feel this article going viral?

Off to read the rest 😛

    Derek Halpern

    This article is this article’s own best example… ha ha.

Lynda White

This is the most useful blogging article I have seen to date. Thank you so much!

    Derek Halpern

    No, thank you for that Lynda. Really appreciate comments like this.

Michael Chibuzor

It’s a great pillar content I must confess. Now, I know what makes content go viral on Social media networks.


Thanks Derek!
In the beginning, I was thinking that you were going to try to sell something, but I was wrong, and I’m sorry about that.

You are great, and your advices are great too.

Have a nice day!

    Derek Halpern

    Matteo… If I was selling something, that would have been completely okay too. Remember, I run Social Triggers as a business.

Rob Cubbon

Rubbish article, Derek! (Was that high arousal activation?)

Seriously, one of the best articles I’ve read all year.

    Derek Halpern

    Thanks Rob.

    And Rubbish?


Lise Halskov

Very inspiring, Derek! I do provide a ton of practical stuff in my blogposts, but think I might benefit from adding more emotion to it. I guess the balance is to add emotion and still keep things serious. It seems to me that there is plenty of stuff with only emotion and no real substance. Lise

    Derek Halpern

    Awesome Lise. When you start writing some more emotionally-charged content, share some of it here. Would love to see what you come up with.

Remco Boom

Great article Derek, I believe this one belongs to the category ‘Awe’ and it deserves a bookmark.

I’ve known for a long time that fear is one of the biggest motivators for people. It all comes down to instinct and the will to ‘survive’. This applies to pretty much every situation that you’re in , including surviving the fight for traffic and making sales.

But as you more or less mentioned already, use fear sparingly because it can backfire. If you made people afraid for nothing you’re not scoring any bonus points.

    Derek Halpern

    Thanks Remco, and yea, there are too many marketers who abuse fear. And when you do, people get annoyed. It’s definitely in your best interest to use it sparingly.


I always wanted to know how some sites are able to go viral with their content, while others struggle. Thanks for sharing the secret.

Sharon at Big City Vegan

Thanks Derek for another great post! Got me thinking and doing things differently. 🙂

    Derek Halpern

    Small changes… it’s not what you write… it’s how you write it.


Like Nathalie said, some people are better at creating one type over another, which is what I’ve been doing. But lately I’ve been trying to broach different subjects/different approaches to see what sticks.

Thanks, Derek. I look forward to seeing you at RHHLIVE!

    Derek Halpern

    Awesome. I look forward to meeting you too.

Vp Ahmed

Great. This article is very effective and working for the purpose. Thank you Mr. Derek.


Love the simplicity of your blog layout. Love the way your short paragraphs and giant font are unique and draw the reader in. Love the way you showcased / cited the expert information from which you draw your conclusions. I rarely read articles to the end. Something about yours caught me for a long, long time. I’m still here. I think I’ve had the browser open for about 6 hours! Great job. I’m afraid to close it. haha

    Derek Halpern

    Thank you 😀

Gary Anderson II

Hi Derek,
As I mentioned on your FaceBook page, I’ve recently discovered you, and that I’m glad I FINALLY found someone that is openly talking about the Psychology involved in Highly Effective Blogging!

This is a “Perfect Example” of why I’ve created a new bookmark “Folder” in my bookmarks toolbar that I named, “Focus Folder”.

As an ADHD’er, I’ve recently started Cutt’n-Heads …. If you’re not in my “Focus Folder”, I’m not allowed to read it! You (Derek) and Pat Flynn were the first two blogs I bookmarked into my “Focus Folder!” Hey, just being honest 🙂

Gary Anderson II

    Derek Halpern

    That sounds like a great compliment to me. Thank you Gary.


I’m just writing because I like it, and think it might be useful
But my content has never been viral
so thanx for this article, it makes me think ^^

    Derek Halpern

    You’re welcome.


I have posted several different types of blog posts. But, after a while I started noticing a pattern among the post types.

When the post is about “Emotions”, more people comment on the post.

Last week, I posted an article Titled “Graduates from India – High in Quantity but Low in Quality?”

Guess What – post has 50+ comments. Some of the comments longer than the blog post itself.

After I realized, emotional comments attract comments, I was trying to figure out a way to craft titles with emotional intensity.

So, I spend 5 to 10 minutes, with Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer to create a title with 50%+ EMV

Its been working for me since then to drive more comments. So, I’m planning to create a mindmap of topics that with high emotional value. Publishing one such post per week, should create more shares, and links.

Joel Libava


Great post.

This proves one thing;

One doesn’t have to post every day to achieve the desired result. One great post trumps 4 average ones, any day.

Thanks, D

The Franchise King®

    Derek Halpern

    I’d even go so far as saying that 1 great post trumps 10 average ones 😀

Joe Taylor

Thanks for this. I have recently come into the digital marketing world and I am looking to Start blogging. This will massively help me and give me some direction.

Thanks again!

    Derek Halpern

    Awesome. Stick to these types of content, and you’ll potentially get some nice results.

Barbara Lockwood

Thanks for this exciting information Derek,
I have gone through your post just once and
am looking forward to
doing it again in detail as soon as I have completed my
committments for the day! It makes so much sense
and seems like the obvious thing to do. Funny how we
get stuck in a rut doing circles till someone points
out the WAY!! You are inspirational!

    Derek Halpern

    Thank you Barbara.

Nathalie Lussier

You had me at arousal. And by that I mean thank you for sharing the results of that study. It reminds me of the fascination points from the book Fascination, although looking at things from a slightly different angle. I think some people are better at creating one type over others, but it’s a good idea to practice the other styles too.

    Derek Halpern

    I’ve recently read Fascination. It’s a great book. The one thing I didn’t like was the fact that all of the sources weren’t cited in the back of the book.


Marketing 101…Respect!Fantastic post Derek.

    Derek Halpern

    Hrm. I’m not sure if this would classify as 101, but it’s definitely marketing 😀

kimanzi constable

I haven’t read your article on debunking “content is king” (I will though) but I did read an interview of Leo Babauta recently where he says he’s a firm believer in content is king. He says that’s why he doesn’t have too much other stuf on his website because he wants people to focus on the content. I’m not saying I disagree with you because I believe you know more then I ever will, I love this site and all that you’re doing. I ‘m just curious why you think he’s been so successful, I think he has like 230,000 subscribers to his blog.

    Derek Halpern

    You should read the article, and it will all make sense.

Marya | Writing Happiness

That is simply brilliant. I love the fact that whatever you preach, you practise. So if you are saying ‘make sure you show people how to implement the advice you give them. Take the time to show them an example, and give them next action steps. ‘, you follow through.

This is gold my friend, and I am wiser for reading it. Cheers 🙂

    Derek Halpern

    Hey Marya, you’re right. I do practice what I preach. Why would I tell other people to do it if I wasn’t doing it myself? 🙂

Alain Pernot

Oh, Man!

I’m all strung up with 7 High-Arousal Emotions flowing thru my body all at once…
Damn Derek! How do I get off 😉


    Derek Halpern


Great post! I have found that emotion is a key ingredient to action. I have left comments on posts that created 50+ replies from both sides of the argument. Push and “they” push back.

    Derek Halpern

    Yep. Gotta push people, and they always push back. It’s just human behavior on default mode.


Glad to see all the academic research broken down into such an easy, digest-able format!
Good work.

    Derek Halpern

    Thank you Akash. Glad you’re digging it.

Tom Ewer

“Psychologists have long known that people are bad at applying broad concepts to their own lives.”

YES. I couldn’t agree with this more (I’m not being judgmental here – I’m the same). You really do have to hold people by the hand and point them off in the right direction. That’s great advice for any post, regardless of whether you are actively trying to go viral or not.

One of the things that has often struck me about viral content is that it does not need to be “epic”. It can just be a few words. It is the reaction you provoke that primarily causes any given piece of content to go viral (or not). And that’s where emotion comes into it.

Great post Derek!

    Megan Heaney

    Heh – that quote about applying broad concepts, that stopped me in my tracks too, I re-read it aloud.
    I’m at a big marketing expo in London today but I’ve gotten more value from this post than I’ve gotten all day at here!
    Thanks Derek.

    Derek Halpern

    You’re right. it’s always about the emotion. That one article, the content is king myth debunked wasn’t epic. It was actually quite short, and it spread like wildfire.


You’ve done it again. Killer post. There aren’t many bloggers who offer this level of concrete and actionable advice. This is certainly one I’ll bookmark and reference often. Thanks!

    Derek Halpern

    That’s the whole point of Social Triggers. I may not update as many times as many other bloggers, but when I do, it’s hard-hitting 🙂

Dewane Mutunga


This might be the best post you’ve written here on Social Triggers to date.

This stuff is on the money! While I’m aware of hitting that emotion nerve, I could always be doing a better job.

You’ve laid down the blueprint for creating viral content here, I’m sure everyone reading this can benefit from this read.


P.S. Fear IMO is the biggest game changer on the list. Making people aware of a problem currently have or may have in the future whether they’re aware of it or not, is almost always guaranteed to move people to act! Once you stated the problem, give them the solution and you become a hero for the brief lol Good Stuff!

    Derek Halpern

    The best?

    I’ve written some good ones… ha ha. 😀

    It’s definitely one of the longest.

    I usually don’t like to write articles this long, but I was experimenting with a longer format to see how it does.


Fantastic stuff Derek. The list of arousal emotions is very helpful. I love what you’re doing here at Social Triggers lately, congrats!

Two other things I commonly see in viral content: killer headlines (to your “arousal emotions” point), and digestible formats. A post really can’t become viral without a great headline. A familiar and digestible format is also very helpful (some examples: list posts, brief rants, point and counterpoint, expert round-ups).

    Derek Halpern

    You’re right Corbett. You do need a great headline, and you also need the content to be digestible and broken up (h3 tags, bullets, lists, etc).

    And of course, thanks for the compliment Corbett. Much appreciated. Gotta keep trucking over here 🙂

Steve Rice

Great step-by-step analysis, Derek. Really appreciate it.

    Derek Halpern

    No problem Steve.

Ryan Cumley

I love the idea of targeting a “next action” specifically to the emotional reaction you crafted your content around.

So far, my only calls to action are either: buy my product, subscribe to my newsletter, or tweet this.

I’m going to go think about some additional calls to action I can use tailored more to each of these emotions.

Thanks for the post!

    Derek Halpern

    You should always promote your stuff… but you also need to show people how to use whatever it is you’re teaching them to do. That’s why the next action part of a blog article is crucial.


Damn that’s good. You’ve just inspired me to take my next blog post a couple steps further than I had planned. Insanely practical stuff bro keep it up.

    Derek Halpern

    Will do Alex. Let me know how it turns out for you.


Nice article. I needed it today especially since I am trying to write some content!

Love your stuff Derek!

    Derek Halpern

    Awesome Chris. Hope it helped.


Very well written article on a very interesting subject, thank you!

Scott Watermasysk

For our own product, we saw a dramatic increase in the number of shares when we simply asked our users to share the link (tweet/etc).

It seems trivial, but it really highlights the need to do more than just add share buttons if you want people to actually share the content.

    Derek Halpern

    What’s up Scott? You’re right. You should always ask people to share stuff. But in the end, when you have contagious content, it works better 😉

Ian Brodie

Heh – nice action steps at the end – practice what you preach.


    Derek Halpern


James Clear

Nice article buddy.

On the “next action” tip… I remember reading that a similar strategy was one of the reasons Tim Ferriss did so well with the 4-hour workweek. He offers very clear next steps at the end of the chapter on where to go to implement the content he shared on the previous pages.

If you think about it, most books don’t offer a very clear list of resources for you to put the content into action. He spoon-fed the next steps to the reader and it helped the books fly off shelves.

Of course, there is a lot more to his story, but it definitely helped.

    Derek Halpern

    You always need to spoon-feed readers. Some people don’t do it because they think their readers will be insulted, but that’s really a myth. Everyone likes to be spoon fed heh.

      Sandy Neumann

      It’s much like writing–never use your first draft! I am amazed at the difference in quality when I intentionally revise a post for purpose. Great article, Derek!

      Rich Brooks

      That reminds me of the book Prometheus Rising, which tried to get readers to challenge their fixed thinking of the world. Each chapter ended with 4 or 5 exercises that the reader was supposed to do open their mind to new possibilities.

      I still remember performing some of those exercises 20 years later, so I guess it worked!

        Derek Halpern

        Sounds like it did, especially if you’re still thinking about it 20 years down the line.

Mars Dorian

EPic cornerstone content. I just bookmarked it.

Back in the days, I mainly wrote positive articles with positive titles. But lately, I filled the gaps with “anxiety” and “fear” based posts, and got massive traction through that (by my standards).

Negative styled articles (but with an upbeat, hopeful message) does the magic for me – kind of like the newspapers in the past 😉

    Derek Halpern

    Positive articles are great… but you always need to mix it up with some negative content too. Show people what they’re doing wrong and why, and you’ll see that’s a nice switch up and creates some shock value and of course, generates traffic 🙂

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