How to Make Sticky Social Media Content

Social networks are no longer a simple communication platform but also as a major source of information. Have you ever wondered why certain information get shared so much and go viral on social networks?

Even though there is no magic rule for a content to go viral, most of the wide spread information share similar characteristics. Stickiness is one of them. Malcolm Gladwell was the original thinker of the concept of stickiness. An idea, concept or product is considered as stickiness when it is remembered, repeated, and acted upon by a large number of people. Chip Heath and Dan Heath expanded the idea of stickiness by introducing the 6-letter “SUCCES” principle. Sticky ideas are simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional and stories.

Viral posts are usually simple but unexpected ideas. People like to share surprising content. Marketo’s 2013 survey and the following research in 2015 revealed that people love to forward and share amazing and surprising posts on their Facebook. Those content would initially attract people’s attention with a short simple title that concisely introduces the core information to the audience. Huffington Post’s most shared article in 2015 is a good example.

The provocative title indicated that the article was about the possible cause of addiction. Simple enough. But that’s not all. It triggered people’s appetite by saying that the cause of addition would surprise you. The post was thought provoking and made people eager to share.

People love scientific research, especially the one with surprising results that can blow your mind, just like the Marketo survey. Scientific survey has its natural character of credibility among audience. Besides, being able to be distributed through the Huffington Post, a credible medium with great reputation, helped the post gained more authority. People trust it, so share it.

Stories that are able to emotionally engage people can easily go viral on social networks. In 2013, a message from the Cordell family kids successfully obtained over 1 million likes on Facebook within seven hours. The sign read, “Hi World. We Want a puppy! Our dad said we could get one if we get 1 million Likes! So Like this! He doesn’t think we can do it!”

It is not only kids; cats and other pets have become cliché on the Internet. A cute cat dressing in a holiday outfit, a singing Siberian Husky, an adorable baby trying to escape the crib do equally well on social networks.

What’s your thought about sticky content on social networks? Have you read, liked, or shared one of those posts during the past year?


Cernel, S. (April 15, 2016). How to create sticky social media content. Retrieved from

Davis, B. (May 20, 2014). What are the best social media marketing campaigns of all time? Retrieved from

Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2007). Made to stick: Why some ideas survive and others die. New York: Random House.

Rayson, S. (December 2, 2015). How to go viral: Lessons from the most shared content of 2015. Retrieved from

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4 Responses to How to Make Sticky Social Media Content

  1. sunniexyy says:

    Social media has certainly become a vital platform for brands to spread information, gather attention and implement marketing campaigns. Therefore, content needs to be sticky in order to stand out and distinguish itself among the larger amount of information.
    For one, I appreciate the sticky content that shows understanding of audience, connect brands to messages and convey authenticity. One example can be Coca Cola’s campaign that released customized bottle with messages, in which many customers share their special bottles on social media.
    For another, sticky content that tells a story can easily go viral since social media users are interested in stories. Stories of ordinary people have strong potential to arouse resonation and care.

  2. delacall says:

    The urge to create something sticky and profitable and social media has contaminated my newsfeed. Social media has become a sorry place of “click bait” articles. Us users are victims of “click-bait” titles with the only intention of generating revenue. Even the most respected news media, such as NYT or WSJ, are viciously targeting users to enter their website disregarding the ethics and principles of journalism and to inform the people.
    Social media firms such as Facebook will have to enforce new filters in order to protect the integrity of their platforms.

  3. tojo says:

    I am occasional social media user and on the rare instances that I log into my Facebook, I do happen to find myself stopping to take a look at certain videos that pop up on my newsfeed. I generally stop if its a video about national news or on “cute” animals and bypass things people post that are overtly about brands. For me, I can’t seem to “like” a blatant advertising post on social media platforms, even when “sticky” because of the awareness I have of being targeted in some way. I know this thinking is contradictory to the notion that sites like Facebook sell your info to advertisers anyway, but I digress. Usually, there are the particular Facebook friends who avidly repost and share, and I can see Marketo’s 2013 and 2015 research results in action. These posted stories provide either humor, joy, shock, national or local news of the day, or, sometimes, a mixture of these qualities. As with news organizations in general, they are all hoping that their articles are visited, providing more traffic to the site. What better way to do this than grasping peoples emotions?

    I think sticky social media content is fine, as long as its not providing and or spreading misleading or incorrect information. Unfortunately, this has become a big issue. As the previous reply mentioned, ethics are sometimes disregarded in the name of “click-bait.” If this problem can be curtailed, then I peacefully exist with “sticky” social media posts.

  4. pgreppi says:

    i totally do! these contents are very viral, very sticky, but do they bring value? do they turn impressions into sales? because this is the bottom-line of every marketing campaign, as Young’s (2010) “brand media strategy” told us. We all want our contents to be viral, be shared millions of times, but if we focus too much on the entertainment people will get from our content, we might forget about the most important thing we want from our viewers: that they buy our products!

    This doesn’t mean going down the hard sales strategy. A good, viral content can rise sales too. For example, let’s compare these two social media campaigns for horror movies: (Carrie) (Paranormal Activity)

    The first is very catchy, unexpected, emotional. I wonder what is going to happen from the first moment. it is also very fun, is a candid camera type of video, so I wouldn’t expect it to promote a horror movie!
    Look where is the reference to the movie: less than a second after few minutes of pranks and fun. The call to action? just a hashtag. did you ever voluntarily type a hashtag in the browser of your social media? no? I’ve never done it either.

    Now let’s look at the second video. For the whole length of the video, I wonder “how scary will actually be this film!” Seeing the audience’s reaction was very powerful and made me think: “am I strong enough to see it?”. it is a very simple idea, catchy, dramatic. The product promoted is central to the whole concept: is about how scary is this movie. The campaign did extremely well online. Probably people wouldn’t share it on their newsfeed, but they would talk with others about the movie, share the trailer in private messages, buy tickets and go see it. this single trailer was a key piece for turning Paranormal Activity into the most profitable movie ever produced!

    In summary: viral is good; funny is good; entertaining is good. Don’t forget profits too!