This will make you really cross: make your customers laugh at you…!

Ed MilibandEd Miliband has made British strikers angry today; he has distanced himself from their action, saying it is wrong. (Quick aside: why is it called “action” when striking actually means NOT doing something…?) Anyway, I digress, the result of his Tweet this morning has been that strikers have become more vocal, suggesting that Mr Miliband himself needs to “get real” about the issue. You can imagine the banter on the picket line: “have you seen what one of The Marx Brothers is saying?” or “Tripe! What drivel our so-called leader is spouting”. Those teachers who are on the picket lines well after 3.30pm (going home time) are angry not only at losing a day’s pay, they now have to contend with the Labour Party effectively supporting the Tory boys. No wonder there’s tons of negativity flying around on Twitter with loads of re-tweets.

Indeed, whenever anything makes us angry we tend it share it. Look at the number of complaints on Twitter alone – people moaning about bad service, commenting on some aspect of the stupidity of an Apprentice candidate, or complaining about their favourite football team’s ineptitude. And it is these kind of messages that appear to get the most Re-Tweets.

If it isn’t these anger-induced messages we share, it is the funny video on YouTube. Indeed, some of the most “viral” stuff online is the humour. Rarely do “ordinary” business blog posts get that much attention. Last week, the most commented item on my blog was “Are Facebook users stupid?” It appears I made several people angry – and they commented..! But when people agree with what you write or go “that’s nice” they don’t tend to interact, nor do they pass it on.

The “Holy Grail” is combining anger with comedy. If you can make people laugh and angry at the same time, then you have hit the jackpot, as the video below shows.


With over 10m views and loads of recommendations and shares, this video about how United Airlines broke a guitar remains a significant part of online history. But the key to its success is that combination of anger and humour.

Now, a new study confirms what newspaper editors have known for years; if you trigger emotions, you lead to more people talking about your story and more people sharing it. The research found that two important emotions in getting people to share content online were humour and anger. If you make your readers cross and give them a laugh at the same time you are on your way to viral heaven.

So, if you want more people to “like” your content, to “Tweet” it or to “Digg” it, you need to fire up their “high arousal” emotions such as anger, laughter or titillation. Making people sad, feel content or simply smile, does not achieve the same ends. The reason why many businesses don’t get the social sharing they want online could be they are simply too business-like – trying to be calm, placid and unemotional. If they want to get the benefit of online social sharing, it seems that they need to start becoming emotional, rather than plain and ordinary.

Perhaps Mr Miliband would have had less trouble today if he hadn’t been so emotive – but then he would never have dominated the news agenda either. Goodness, am I being cynical?


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Graham Jones
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+
Graham Jones


Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist, professional speaker and author of 32 books who helps businesses understand the online behaviour of their customers
YouTube is not as clever as we think. It is biased and poor at determining what you should watch. "How YouTube’s Al… - 18 hours ago
Graham Jones
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