Viral web activity depends on understanding people

Anatomical diagram of brainThere are days on the web when things just go crazy. Some blog post just gets tons of attention or a Tweet gets re-tweeted a gazillion times or a YouTube video is watched by millions in minutes. It is a distant dream of most website owners to get such notoriety.

But what is it that makes something so shareable? What is it that makes people want to re-tweet or to go onto Facebook and say “you must see this”?

The answer, it seems, is in the back of your head. Just above your ear is a fold in the brain known as the “lateral sulcus” and at the end of this is a tiny mass of cells known as the “temporoparietal junction” (TPJ). This is an interesting area of the brain for neuroscientists because it is where we process information that allows us to understand the differences between ourselves and other people. It is the part of our brain where we appear to get what other people are about and what they are thinking. When people have damage to the TPJ they seem to have problems with making moral decisions, suggesting that the region of the brain plays a crucial role in allowing us to get along with other people by helping us interpret how they might view our actions.

Now, a new study from UCLA shows that it is this area of the brain that is most active when people want to promote things, such as sharing on social media. It implies that crucial to our decision as to whether or not to share something is our ability to consider how other people will react to our sharing.

In other words, if you want somethint to go viral you need to understand your audience very well indeed.

I have said it before – and I shall go on saying it – many online businesses fail to achieve anything on the web because they do not seek an in-depth understanding of their audience. The more you know about your audience, the more you understand them, the more likely it is you will succeed online. This new study merely adds more evidence to what successful online businesses already know – a deep understanding of your online audience is crucial to success.

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