Welcome to Emotional Social Media!


Some brands are failing to attract audiences and for the most part, keep them interested in social channels over time. On the other hand, many marketers invest a lot of effort deciphering and mastering the peculiarities of Social Media, in comparison to the time they dedicate to understanding the public they are addressing more in depth. Is there a relationship between these two?


For a moment, I invite you to think of Social Media not as the icon of Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Linkedin or YouTube, but as John, Lorraine, Florence, your boyfriend or girlfriend, your cousin, your friends, the artist you adore the most, the best football team you support, or the expert you admire. All these people are Social Media. These groups have been shaping the media through their language, their usage patterns, their experiences and the impact they’ve caused elsewhere. Without these people the media would be completely irrelevant.



Only a few brands understand the importance of what this means, and yet they still give more importance to the media than to the human beings behind them. In the last few years, as a consultant in Social Business Intelligence, I have read through thousands of comments made on social media by consumers and users of brands that represent consumer goods, financial services, entertainment, and the automotive industry, to name a few, in several Latin American countries. I have observed that consumers only participated or occasionally expressed themselves to keep a relationship with the brand, with a common element in all cases: emotion.


How can a post with the picture of a puppy and a fun Social Club comment or photo of a pizza made with Oreo cookies generate thousands of retweets? And in turn, why did a post by the noodle brand Mama Lucchetti (Argentine brand) saying, “Today someone shouted an awful compliment to me in the street, but it was so cute!” generate thousands of shares and comments of all kinds? The common answer in all these messages is that they triggered an emotion.


Human beings are highly emotional and our behaviour and interactions (including the purchase decision) are influenced by them. According to Paul Ekman, there are 6 basic emotions that are common among people of all cultures: anger, happiness, surprise, disgust, sadness and fear. Now as a marketer you may be wondering: “Are there any emotions that generate more engagement than others? How can I generate certain types of emotions in my audience to capture their attention and preference?”


According to the report “Social Transmission, Emotion, and the Online Content of Virality”, conducted by The Wharton School of Business, there is a strong relationship between emotion and virality, but the interesting thing is that unlike what ordinary people would normally suppose, positive emotions generate more viral action than negative emotions. It is curious that the media and news insist on paying attention to spreading negative news while people prefer to share positive news in social media instead.


We could prove this by doing our own analysis using the Socialmetrix Social Media Listening tool with snacks and chocolate drink brands from across the region in 2014. In this case, we took 29 brands to understand how often consumers used the word “love” compared to “hate” when referring to any of these 29 brands within their messages. The results were surprising, since the word “love” was used in more than 64 thousand cases while “hate” was used in only 9 thousand, i.e. 7 times more expressions relating to love than to hate in a year.





There are other emotions which generate virality according to studies and experience:


Why the hell do People Share




  • Content generated by amazement, inspiration or mood/ humour.
  • Messages that cause sadness can generally go viral but less frequently.
  • Content that evokes anger and wrath is more commonly viralized. In fact, the study shows that you can predict the virality of content based on the anger evoked by the message.

It is interesting to see how Upworthy, the famous blog that receives thousands of shares due to its contents, defines that the largest concentration of shares lies in the happiness – anger range.


Well, then, how do we turn this knowledge into concrete actions that will help our brand attract the attention of our audience and their preferences? Here are 4 suggestions:


  1. Plan your content in order to generate emotions with more virality and preference, such as happiness, amazement, inspiration and humour. Ask yourself what those unique messages your brand is offering and which of those your audience values. Remember that a “share” is generated by an emotional response, and that happens in fractions of a second and is a reaction that takes place almost without thinking.


  1. Take into account elements which are unexpected If you use amazement, but know how to be cautious in not going beyond the values of your audience, because it can be counterproductive. Some examples to generate amazement are:
  • Challenge commonly used concepts and to try to be different.
  • Share new ways of doing things (Oreo is a great example of a brand that appeals to the creativity of ways to enjoy their product).
  • Generate a provocative question.
  • Notice and point out any fact that may not be known and generate surprise


  1. Entertainment, fun and playfulness (choose an option, find the hidden word, how much there is in the image, etc.) generate participation and anticipation, as they are gamings. Many brands use this resource to keep their audiences expectant and attentive.


  1. Ask your audience what they like. It is so basic, but we forget that people are willing to share their preferences and motivations more than ever thanks to this huge focus group called Social Media. Many brands have become experts in gaining knowledge of their audience by doing surveys and showing an open attitude to receiving feedback.


Undoubtedly, marketers that can emotionally connect with their audiences will be the best equipped to generate longer relationships with their brands and their products, like the great Maya Angelou said:


“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but what people will never forget is how you made them feel.”