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Newco NY Recap: Trends Spotting & the Psychology of How and Why We Share

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StumbleUpon knows good content. We serve more than 500 million web pages per month and can gauge engagement potential almost instantaneously. Detecting early signs of virality is a big business.  At NewCo NY, our Global Head of Social, Valerie De La Rosa, shared insights for getting ahead of the viral curve. She dug into the latest content trends, trend-spotting techniques, and the psychology of how and why we share online to inform agencies’, brands’ and publishers’ content marketing strategy.


Trend: Old illusions and puzzles are new again


Content fatigue is creating a survival of the most intelligent atmosphere online. Our brains are actually craving a challenge. Blame “The Dress.” Each one of the images above were originally indexed into StumbleUpon between 2008 – 2011. The Albert Einstein/Marilyn Monroe illusion, for example, achieved an additional cycle of virality because “The Dress” gave it a new context. Our eyes are constantly looking to make visual sense of what’s in front of us. Audiences on our social channels eagerly gravitated towards posts highlighting logic problems, puzzles and optical illusions.

The nutritional value of the internet depends on the kind of content we create and distribute online. There’s a reason it’s called a media “diet.”

Looking specifically at the images above, each gained an additional cycle of virality for two reasons:

  • Gives the emotional gifts of wonder and/or identity. Ego brings all the clicks to the yard.
  • They all have the following traits: Participatory, Ease of Entry and Shareable.

Trend: Hamsters are the new “cats” on the internet


In 2014, there was a 159% YoY increase in hamster content on StumbleUpon with over 60 pages related to hamsters submitted to our site every day.

Trend: We’re living in a post-meme world


There was a huge cultural shift between 2011 and 2012, where the word “meme” transitioned to mainstream. Memes are news. We go into these live events, whether it’s the Super Bowl, the Oscars, the Grammys, NBA All-Star Weekend, thirsty for a meme to emerge. Memes are mascots for our shared experience, a cultural token for tuning into appointment TV.


So you’re probably wondering, how can I forecast trends?

Trend Spotting Technique #1: Adjust your media diet


Every trending topic whether on FB, SU, Twitter, etc. has a patient zero – the person who found the obscure blog, the 10-year old YouTube video, empower yourself to be patient zero by reading smaller, lesser-known sites. By the time a topic is trending on any social platform, take the Jay-Z approach: Onto the Next One.

Trend Spotting Technique #2: Develop an eye for pattern recognition


Approach content with a cocktail party-mindset. Ask yourself: Is this something someone would use as small talk? Create aspirational intimacy with your audience, and they will share your content. People aspire to be seen as: smart, witty, funny, in-the-know.


1. We share to belong


Let’s all bow down to the nucleus accumbens because that, my friends, is where the magic happens. Notifications are squirts of dopamine to the brain, if and only if, they come from sources that evoke emotions.

2. We’re alone together online


We share because we’re lonely. Look at the image below. Each one of them tells us something about ourselves: Identity.

Don’t make it about you


  • Give context to why your content matters.
  • Create a “this is us” or “this is so you” moment.
  • Old adage updated for today: a consumer may not remember what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel

If you remember one thing from this post, take note: the unexpected is an accelerant for virality.


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