Preference or Controversy: What Predicts Virality Most?

Proceedings of ‏The 4th International Conference on Research in Humanities and Social Sciences

Year: 2021


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Preference or Controversy: What Predicts Virality Most?

Yening Hu



Viral marketing, if done successfully, creates great exposure for brands and product offerings. YouTube, as a video platform, is an important marketing channel and we study what predicts video virality in this context. With the increasing usage of online platforms and social media, YouTube is an ideal setting to study what predicts video virality. Previous literature indicates that emotional response leads to consumer engagement in social media and two aspects of such response can be characterized as preference and controversy. To study what associates with virality most, we utilized a large dataset from which consists daily record of top trending YouTube videos from 2017-2018. We construct measures of preference-related variables and controversy-related variables and apply lasso and ridge regression to answer the research question: is it preference or controversy that predicts virality better. We found out that preference predicts virality much better than controversy. Our results bridge the gap in the literature: we reconcile the impact of preference and controversy on virality. This research also has managerial implications: marketers, content producers, and platform owners will be better off providing well-liked content.

Keywords: Virality, social media, marketing strategy, prediction analysis, online platforms.