New Research: Not all emotions are created equal

Heat Map of Emotions in Most Viral Content

Emotions rather than logic influence our decisions and compel us to take action.

Not all emotions are created equal.

Fractl conducted research earlier this year on which emotions were more powerful in viral marketing content. The findings of this research have implications way beyond social sharing: emotions are at the heart of all copy writing, not just social media. Fractl’s study was also just published in the Harvard Business Review (HBR).

Researchers asked 60 viewers which of their emotions were most triggered by 30 of the top 100 images from as voted on, e.g. proven viral content.  Researchers used the audience responses to create an emotion heat map showing the emotions associated with the most “sharing” or action. The heat map shows:

  • Negative emotions were less commonly found in highly shared content than positive emotions affirming what we’ve posted here recently about negative frame versus positive frame
  • Content that evokes surprise and anticipation is the most shared content. This includes: curiosity, amazement, interest, astonishment, uncertainty
  • Admiration was commonly found in highly shared content
These results may or may not apply to your audiences or “tribes,” but we think it’s a great model for testing which emotions do resonate most with your supporters. It’s not manipulative to deliver the kind of content your readers want to see and share.

Heat map & Types of Emotions

Here is a larger view of the Emotions Heat-Map showing “surprise” and “anticipation” were the strongest emotions associated with viral content. Admiration was a close third. Following this heat map is a reference table of the emotions model used for this study.

Heat map of Emotions in Most Shared Marketing Content


Emotional Categorization by Robert Plutchik