Generating viral online content is one of the central objectives of social media marketing. Today, achieving virality can for instance be crucial for launching new products, affecting a brand's image, or generally creating awareness in the broader sense. At the same time user-generated content can also go viral and social media platforms such as YouTube or Facebook constantly feed new content that has been viewed or shared by millions of people around the world. Research has been looking at various factors to answer the question why certain pieces of online content go more viral than others. Besides the obvious antecedents, like quality and entertainment value of the content, research has identified several less obvious psychological factors that drive online virality.
This PhD project aims at researching unconscious psychological processes that affect online sharing behaviour. Because some of these processes can be systematically affected by online content features, understanding them is of high interest for social media marketing practice. At the same time the results of this PhD project will contribute to discussions centring around the need for regulations of social media. Since the researched psychological processes happen unconsciously and manipulate behaviour without the awareness of the consumer, an evaluation of their harm for society should be included in consumer protection considerations.