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by Kevin Parry

Weekly insights from an artist making global ads in his basement.

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Weekly insights from an artist making global ads in his basement.

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Thoughts on Shareability

Feb 22, 2024

Feb 22, 2024

The Dinner Table Test

I recently did an internet search for a "content shareability formula" and the results are hilariously vague and ridiculously overcomplicated. Stuff like: emotional resonance divided by the need of the audience multiplied by artistic intent subtracted from…

There's possibly some truth there, but it's hard to find and even harder to put to practice.

In my years of making videos and analyzing which were the most shared, I've found there's pretty much one major factor in determining the shareability of any post: the dinner table test.

A cousin to the elevator pitch, it basically asks if a picture/video is simple enough to describe that you'd be inclined to bring it up in discussion at the dinner table.

"Hey, did you see that video where the cat freaks out after seeing a cucumber!"

Bringing up internet culture in real life is a risk. We've all taken a swing at describing a hilarious video to friends and struck out because, "…well, you just have to see it!"

Simply put, if it can't be easily described, fewer people are going to put their reputation on the line to share it.

A Simple Formula

My rule of thumb is two blanks. Did you see that picture/video where [blank] does [blank]?

Imagine a picture of a normal-looking, healthy dog. Then, split-screen that picture with (or simply mention) the same dog from a year ago, painfully scrawny from a lifetime of living on the street. Now the 'healthy' photograph has context and emotion that wasn't there before.

One blank (a healthy dog) doesn't give us anything to talk about, but the second blank (its miraculous recovery) provides enough context and emotion to want to share it. It's incredible the number of viral tweets that are boring photographs with an outlandish (and context-providing) caption.

Why not keep going? Three blanks must be better, right? I can't prove it, but in my experience, adding a third blank starts veering into that territory of being unnecessarily complicated. You know that co-worker who brought up a 'hilarious video' and is now trying to explain its backstory to confused onlookers? Case of the third blank.

"Hey, did you see that video where [blank] does [blank], and because of that [blank] goes over to [blank] and…"

I'd bet a week's wages that most viral and highly shareable content can be described with two blanks:

  • Did you see that video where the [young boy] is [loopy after the dentist]?

  • Did you see that video where the [guy] does [all the dances throughout history]?

  • Did you see that video where that [baby bites] that [polite British boy's finger]?

Putting it into Practice

Describe what you're posting, or even format the concept, in a way that someone would pitch it to a dinner table or - how will one friend tell another friend about your post?

Now, maybe shareability isn't your goal. It shouldn't really be anyone's goal, but asking the above question also applies to the general clarity of your post in a social media context.

For example, these can be visual blanks. Some of the most shared clips of visual effects are split screens of the final product (first blank) and how it was actually captured on set (second blank). Again, the second blank featuring the behind-the-scenes footage provides context and emotion (hard work/ingenuity) for the finished artwork.

Take my videos "I Magically Turn Into Random Objects" and "The 10 Types of Magic." Both are basically me flexing my editing skills, but I've wrapped them in a shareable description. I've titled them in a way that spoon-feeds how to describe them to a friend.

To sum it all up, this isn't a hack to 'go viral.' It's just something I've noticed about the most shareable online posts. I've learned firsthand that if shareability is the first goal, you're aiming at the wrong target. But it's always great to add more clarity, context, and emotion to your posts.

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