Digital Marketing is something I know a lot about, mainly because I’ve been teaching digital marketing and social media for over a decade now (damn, I think it might be 15 years already… argh). I also research it, since I did my PhD in electronic marketing (which was kinda new back then), and my University demands I publish research. So, I tend to just stick with what I know.

In this category of blog posts I write about things related to Digital Marketing. I might write something fairly mainstream, (SEO stuff etc), but to be honest that stuff tends to bore me, so I like to write about stuff that people don’t really know about, usually research based. I hope my posts in this category are interesting!


The Problem with Conversion Rate

What’s the number 1 metric Digital Marketers talk about? Conversion rate.

It’s calculated as the number of sales over the number of visits

But have you ever thought about what conversion rate is really telling you?

Because of the way its calculated, a Higher Conversion Rate Doesn’t Always Mean Higher Performance!

Consider these 2 examples:

Week 1: 4% conversion rate. (50,000 visits, 2,000 sales)

Week 2: 10% conversion rate. (10,000 visits, 1,000 sales)

 So what’s the problem? The problem is that week 2 is telling us that we have a better engagement rate. But in reality, it has half the number of sales. It’s misleading us into thinking that conversion rate accurately reflects performance. 

So the lesson is – be careful when using conversion rate – look at how it’s been calculated, and don’t blindly use it as your main metric of success.


The Biggest Mistake in Content Marketing: Creating Negative Motives to Share

For viral content to succeed, it must create strong motives to share.

Soon after I developed the BUMP Viral Content algorithm I was sitting at my desk putting together some notes for a night class I was scheduled to teach, when I got a phone call. The woman calling introduced herself as Cheryl, and explained that she was the director of a boutique advertising agency in Sydney Australia. Her voice was rushed and forceful, and she sounded stressed. She explained she heard I was researching about viral movies, and wanted some advice.

I was flattered, and curious.

We chatted for about 5 minutes, whereafter some small talk and pleasantries she explained her predicament. She told me her agency had recently taken on a new client who wanted to launch a new brand of underwear. Her brief was to produce a high engagement advertisement. Or as she put it, something that would “go viral”. The problem was that the advertisement wasn’t creating buzz—after several months it had barely 400 views, and the client wanted answers. Cheryl had no idea why it wasn’t working, and wanted to find out if anything could be done to make it work.

Before the phone call ended I promised Cheryl I would have a look, though suspecting that it would be unlikely anything could be fixed.

I set aside my class preparation, and began watching. It was a personalized story type advertisement—a technique I had seen before where the viewer was asked to upload a photo of themselves that would be included in the story. I followed the instructions – uploaded a photo of myself, and selected male for my gender.

The movie loaded and revealed a dimly-lit studio apartment. A woman appeared from the shadows wearing lingerie. Gliding past a coffee table she picked up a magazine, headed towards her bed, and lay down. She opened the magazine, flicking through the pages before pausing. The camera zoomed in on the page she paused on. It was a fit male model wearing underwear. The camera zoomed in to the face—it was me! They had superimposed my face from the image I uploaded at the start.

The women began to touch herself, and moan… I felt awkward.

It was obvious to me why the ad had not gone viral. The problem was not the quality of the production—it was the content. Incorrectly assuming that sex sells was where it went wrong. Or more precisely, they had wrongly assumed that by showing provocative content it would somehow make people want to share it.

One of the reasons why something goes viral is because it motivates people to share it with other people. Worse than creating no motive for viewers to share, Cheryl’s advertisement actually created a negative motive to share. Most people would not feel comfortable sharing soft-pornography with people they knew, let alone publicly on social networks, since most people don’t want to risk their reputation, and there is no social capital available from sharing. Cheryl’s campaign actually created an incentive to not share.

The lesson to be learnt from Cheryl’s experience is important: For viral content to succeed, it must create strong motives to share.

Dr Brent Coker's Going Viral Framework

Dr Coker’s Going Viral Marketing Framework

What makes content sharable?

What are the psychological triggers that evoke sharing motives, and how are they activated?

Over the past eight years I’ve been researching these questions. A summary of my findings can be found in my book Going Viral, and many of the concepts are also discussed in the Virology Viral Marketing Masterclass.

In this blog post, I will outline the three most important elements: Emotion, Self Enhancement, and Affinity.


What does winning a prize and almost getting hit by a car have in common? Both situations invoke strong emotional reactions of course — but both situations also lead to strong word-of-mouth reactions — in both cases you’ll be telling everyone what happened.

Strong Emotions are linked to sharing.

There are two dimensions of emotion: arousal and valence. Although it is critical to use emotions in your marketing content, it is actually the arousal dimension that evokes sharing tendencies. Arousal seems to affect sharing motives through the amygdala part of the brain—a primitive part of the limbic system that is believed to manage feelings-based (affect) memories. Some research suggests it also controls social behaviour. Valence moderates decisions to share marketing content after appraisal from the pre-frontal cortex, though one way to maximise sharing motives is to combine high arousal stimuli of opposite valence.

The science of creating high engagement marketing content using emotions centres on the combination of emotions, and how to maximise the strengths of the emotions to evoke arousal.

Dr Coker’s Going Viral Marketing Framework 1

Here is an example of a super viral (over 1 million shares) that mixes emotions of opposite valence extremely effectively.

Self Enhancement

Self enhancement is a biological tendency for humans to behave in ways to boost positive self-opinion. It’s believed to be a primary mechanism behind building and sustaining self-esteem. Because self enhancement motives appear to be fixed, it’s an extremely powerful tool for motivating content engagement.

People self-enhance in different ways, and for different reasons. Understanding self-enhancement motives in your target audience is a critical step in the initial phases of creating an online marketing campaign. This requires a deep understanding of psychographic preferences—particularly values and ideals. Oftentimes the required information is not obvious, though there are techniques to more accurately identify self enhancement triggers.

There are three general categories of self-enhancement cues used to guide content creation.

(1) Membership cues.   Humans are a group-oriented species. Members of a group are bound by common values or beliefs. If you attend the group’s social meetings you’ll eventually discover what those values and beliefs are—since the topics of conversation give clues about what they might be. For example, motorcycle clubs will mostly talk about the lifestyle of riding a motorcycle, such as near misses with cars, or long-distance adventure tours. These are membership cues—basically things that members in the group think is important and that they all share an interest in. People use membership cues in conversation to confirm, endorse, and legitimise their membership. If membership cues are known, they provide the impetus for content engagement.

Dr Coker’s Going Viral Marketing Framework 2

Impression management.           People share content to manage other people’s impressions of themselves. The usefulness of content that can shape others’ opinions is that it circumvents ego-inflation needs. Content that enables people to manage impressions includes anything that signals something about a character trait that is revered. For example, someone might share a meme that suggests something positive about their work ethic or knowledge of management on LinkedIn.

Dr Coker’s Going Viral Marketing Framework 3

Approval cues.  Approval cues are sought to obtain recognition and respect – two extremely powerful social needs. There’s nothing like the feeling of approval from those around you. When people applaud, laugh, or even pat you on the back, it gives you a tremendous boost in self-esteem. The equivalent of this in social media is engagement (Likes, Retweets, Thumbs up etc). Some types of things people share to earn approval cues may include recent purchases made, recent sporting or life achievements, or amusing situations.


Affinity is a feeling of warmth, respect, and deep appreciation for an activity, idea, or object, that endures over time. Affinity is different from emotion, primarily because emotions are short-term and affinity can be used to evoke strong powerful memories – an extremely useful tool for content marketers.

The most important thing to note about affinity is that it’s a requirement for something to go viral. If you don’t invoke affinity, people most certainly won’t share it. In other words, although emotion might be important when creating marketing content, affinity is critical.

There are several ways to invoke affinity, though two of the most popular include the following:

(1) Youth. People value memories from their youth. Activating time-based affinity from youth-based memories requires identifying a theme that has strong meaning. Youth-based memories don’t have to be specific memories, but rather can be characterised by themes, which widens their appeal. For example, everyone has memories of receiving gifts in their youth. These memories are tied to nostalgic times of being young, which do have importance for a wide range of people.

(2) Relationships. Almost everybody has had relationships in their lives that matter. These memories can be general in nature (mothers vs. a specific person). Using this strategy, the task is usually to identify a likely relationship theme, which usually means romantic or family based but could also be mentor based such as a teacher or leader.

A super viral (over one million shares) example of affinity based content using relationships.

These are the three basic elements of the Going Viral framework.

You can find out more about the factors contributing to highly sharable content in my Virology series, or download a free chapter of my book Going Viral.

The Service Recovery Paradox

The Service Recovery Paradox

What do you do about negative feedback online. Delete it? If it’s a crackpot contribution or using profanity  – sure go ahead. BUT if its genuine you might have an opportunity to INCREASE customer satisfaction and loyalty. By using something called the ‘Service Recovery Paradox (SRP)’

So what is the SRP?

A study was done years ago that found that customers who had experienced a “transgression” – or something that went wrong when buying from a brand,  and had the transgression fixed by the brand were actually more satisfied with the brand than if the service encounter had gone smoothly.

For example, a traveller’s flight is cancelled. When she calls the airline, they apologise and offer her another flight of her choice on the same day, and a discount voucher against future travel. Under the service recovery paradox, the traveller is now happier with the airline, and more loyal to it, than she would have been had no problem occurred.

In a study we did some years back we found that when someone senior from a brand responded to negative comments their brand, the brand was perceived as more trustworthy, more genuine, and generally a more positive brand.

We tested two fictitious social media pages in a laboratory experiment. Group A was a mix of positive and negative comments about a brand. Group B was purely positive.

The Service Recovery Paradox 4

The other difference was that in Group B, the negative comments had a response from someone senior from the organisation, in this case Sam Head of Sales. The response signalled empathy and an offer to fix the transgression (problem).

The Service Recovery Paradox 5

The results found the negative page had more positive evaluations from consumers. Evidence of the “Service Recovery Paradox”

The Service Recovery Paradox 6

So – the point is that on social media you shouldn’t arbitrarily delete negative comments from dissatisfied customers – they can potentially be a huge opportunity.

To see more tips, check out my 18 MBA Marketing tips on YouTube – short tips – Gold nuggets of marketing knowledge hidden in academic literature — stuff that has a powerful effect on consumer behaviour, but perhaps not that well known.


How to use Affinity to Increase Content Engagement

When you create content to post online, what’s the number 1 thing you care about? Engagement right? Affinity is the key to engagement. In this blogpost I describe what affinity is, how to create affinity, and why it drives engagement.

What is ‘Affinity’?

Affinity is something that people deeply care about. Ultra strong relevance, usually tied to people’s value system. If people don’t care about the story you’re trying to tell, they’re not going to share it.

Technically, affinity is a feeling of warmth, respect, and deep appreciation for an activity, idea, or object. Affinity is different than emotion, which is characterised by more of a short term physical response to a stimulus. Affinity is an enduring quality of feeling radiating from the heart, that doesn’t necessarily have any physical symptoms.

The most important thing to note about affinity is that it’s a requirement for something to go viral. If somebody doesn’t relate to or care about your Marketing, then they most certainly won’t share it. Although emotion might be important when creating marketing content, affinity is critical.

One of the ways to create affinity is to remind people why they love something. The biggest problem with this however is that not all of your target audience might like the same thing. It’s of course easier if you’re selling something where your target market is bound together  by a shared passion, like motorcycling, but for many brands their target audience is more mixed. In this situation, activating meaningful memories that a wider range of people care about is a better choice.

Here’s an example. This is a well-known surf brand here in Australia, and this type of advertisement is often used by surf brands – a pic of someone surfing inside the barrel of a wave.

How to use Affinity to Increase Content Engagement 7

Did this go viral and get a lot of engagement? No. Although it appeals to their target market’s main interest – it doesn’t tap into their value system (create affinity).

Compare that example to this example from a competitor. They realised that their target market cared deeply about 2 things – (1) location – where they had surfed. And (2) the health of the ocean – surfers care about ocean a lot – it taps into their value system.

How to use Affinity to Increase Content Engagement 8

So in this image we have someone surfing in an iconic surf location for those who surf – Java – an island in Indonesia. And it’s also showing the amount of pollution in the ocean. You think this went viral? Its sure did – the engagement was through the roof.

So that’s affinity – before you start creating content – figure out what your target market deeply cares about, and use that in your campaigns.

You can learn more about Affinity in my book, or in my Virology Viral Marketing Masterclass

Rejoinder: The difference between Affinity and Emotions

Affinity is a powerful feeling that creates the foundations of sharing. Affinity manifests itself as a feeling of warmth, respect, or deep appreciation for an activity, idea, or object. Affinity is different from emotion for several reasons.

An emotion is characterised by some kind of physiological effect. Adrenaline is released, or blood pressure increases. Facial expressions might change to match the emotion. Emotions are characterised by energy and a physical change in the body. They’re usually short term, and can come and go quickly.

Affinity in contrast is a long term quality of feeling. It is a passion that somebody has for something that radiates from the heart. It is a closeness to something, characterised by passion.

Operationally, affinity has greater importance for the prediction of viral content than emotion.

LinkedIn Captions

How to Automatically Add Subtitles to Your LinkedIn Video (for free)

You should always add subtitles to your video because (1) most people flick through social media feeds with no sound, and; (2) it increases your engagement.

Adding subtitles gives you a chance to entice people to pause and turn the sound up on your video. And of course the accessibility issue.

I generally find my engagement is higher on my videos that have subtitles (e.g., my MBA Marketing Tips Series) And it’s not actually that hard to add subtitles – so it’s a no-brainer for me.

Although Facebook and YouTube can generate subtitles for you automatically, unfortunately LinkedIn doesn’t have this feature. So we need to be a bit creative to make it happen.

Linkedin provides the option to add subtitles by uploading an ‘.srt’ file at the time when you upload your video.

In a nutshell, what you do is generate the subtitles in Facebook, and then generate a subtitles file to use in LinkedIn. You upload the subtitles file when you upload your video in LinkedIn.

Both Facebook and YouTube have sophisticated machine learning algorithms that generate subtitles automatically for you, but I have found Facebook’s algorithm is more accurate and easier to adjust for Linkedin.

Step 1: Upload your movie into Facebook.

As mentioned earlier, we need a way to auto-generate subtitles for our footage, and Facebook has the best algorithm for this. So you’ll first need to upload your movie into Facebook to get the subtitles generated (you could use third party software and manually transcribe your movie but who has time for that?)

When uploading, you’ll be given an option to “Auto Generate Captions”. Go ahead and do this. It might take a few minutes, but in general the results are fairly accurate. After generating it will also give you the option to check and edit the result – go ahead and do this if you want, but generally to save time I just trust the accuracy (except it never gets my name spelling right — Calls me ‘Brent Koga’ instead of Brent Coker, lol).

How to Automatically Add Subtitles to Your LinkedIn Video (for free) 9

Step 2: Generate an ‘.srt’ file for LinkedIn.

Open your video in Facebook after it’s finished processing. Make sure you’re using Chrome browser (you could use another browser, but these instructions are Chrome specific).

Press the F12 button on your keyboard to open the developer tools.

Then press Ctrl and f to open the search feature in the developer tools.

Then type the word ‘captions’ without quotes into the search box.

It should highlight a URL that begins with the word ‘blob’. Double click on this URL to select it. Press Ctrl and C to copy this URL.

How to Automatically Add Subtitles to Your LinkedIn Video (for free) 10

Paste the URL (Ctrl and V) into a new tab in your browser. For example, in my example below I copied the URL blob:

You should see a page with text. This is the subtitle information used to render subtitles.

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Step 3: Generate the .srt file for LinkedIn.

I use Notepad++ for this step, but you could also use regular Notepad.

From the URL you pasted into your browser, select all of the text in this page (Ctrl A).

Paste all of the text into a new Notepad document (Ctrl V)

Save the file. Change the “save as type” to All types. Give the file a name ending with .srt

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Now, we have an srt file, but the problem is that it is still in the Facebook format so won’t work in LinkedIn (linkedIn will give an error if you upload it).

To make the srt file compatible with Linkedin, we need to do three things.

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First, delete the word ‘WEBVTT’ at the top of the document.

Second, open up the find and replace function in Notepad (Ctrl F). We need to remove all the ‘size’ references. Type the size statement into the ‘Find what’ field of Notepad, and keep the ‘Replace with’ box empty. In our example, the size statement is size:90%

IMPORTANT: There is a space between time information and the size statement. You MUST also remove this space, otherwise LinkedIn won’t accept the file and will throw an error.

How to Automatically Add Subtitles to Your LinkedIn Video (for free) 14

Third, we need to replace all the full stops in the document, with commas. Use Find and Replace again to do this.

How to Automatically Add Subtitles to Your LinkedIn Video (for free) 15

Last, save the file.

Now we have a LinkedIn compatible subtitles file. After following this process a few times, it becomes very quick.

Step 4: Upload the subtitles file into LinkedIn

Choose the video upload post option in Linkedin. At this point, you’ll see a small ‘edit’ button after you select your video file. This is where you upload your subtitles file to match your video.

How to Automatically Add Subtitles to Your LinkedIn Video (for free) 16

Click on the Edit button, and browse to your .srt subtitles file degenerated in the previous step.

After you select your file, you should see this:

How to Automatically Add Subtitles to Your LinkedIn Video (for free) 17

If you see an error instead, then you have done something wrong when you removed the Facebook specific stuff in Notepad in the previous step (the WEBVTT statement, size information statements including spaces, and replacing the dots for commas).

If it works, then go ahead and save the video settings in Linkedin, and you’re good to go!

Hope this tip was useful for you. Please connect with me on social for more Digital Marketing and Consumer Psychology tips. Thanks for reading!







How Social Currency drives Content Engagement

Think about how many jokes you’ve heard in your lifetime. Dozens? Hundreds? Now think about how many jokes you can remember. If you’re like most people, it’s a struggle to remember more than a few. Jokes are basically short messages that have gone viral, but they aren’t really that memorable. So if jokes are not that easy to remember, how do jokes survive and not just disappear?

It has to do with the speed of transfer. Jokes don’t just survive because they’re written down somewhere—most jokes have been around since long before the internet, and not everyone reads joke books. Jokes are spread by word-of-mouth—one person telling another. If people stop telling each other jokes, the joke will eventually disappear, unless of course someone reads it somewhere and begins telling the joke again.

It’s the word of mouth sharing of a joke that keeps it alive. The motive that causes word-of-mouth sharing is related to the emotion that the joke creates. Jokes are designed to be humorous, which explains why they’re shared. Someone will tell someone else a joke, to make them laugh. But why would an individual feel compelled to make someone else laugh, by telling them a joke? The reason is because all people have a desire to build something we call social currency.

Social currency is intrinsic value we use to help us interact with others, and build social status. When people respect or admire us, we have social currency. When we have social currency we have a good reputation, people respect us, and we feel sense of belonging. For example, one reason why men keep up with popular sports, even though they might not play the sport themselves, is so they can use sports knowledge as a conversation piece with other men. This earns them social currency by helping them build bonds based on shared interests. Building social currency is something all people desire to do, and therefore efforts to build and retain social currency control much of our behavior.

Social currency therefore acts as a powerful motivator for people to share information with others. People share a humorous image, a joke, an idea, a movie, or any other information if they feel that other people will appreciate their efforts to share something that has value. People appreciate others who share useful information, which results in the sharer earning social currency.

3 things you should NEVER put on your website

Stopping customer defection: 3 things you should NEVER put on your website


Sifting through the Webreep Data over the past 12 months, I was looking for evidence of “super no-dealers”, or elements when present on a website are certain to cause morbid dissatisfaction. After quite a bit of analysis (including structural equation modelling and means testing), I discovered what I consider to be the top three elements. We define morbid dissatisfaction as meaning a state of mind whereby a person will cease loyalty (defect to a competitor or alternate), and engage in no or negative word-of-mouth. This dataset includes 26,562 responses.

  1. 1. Human Stock Photos.Stock photos are those images that have been professionally staged. Human Stock Photos (HSP’s) are those that are staged and include models, such as a picture of a woman with a telephone headset on, or a man shaking hands with a client. Websites might use these images in various places on their website, including home page, contact us page, or even about us pages. You might have gotten away with it last decade (non-verifiable because I don’t have the data), but our data is showing that nowadays you might actually be causing damage using HSP’s. The problem is that internet users know right away that the photo is fake. The picture of the beautiful woman with a big smile talking into the phone is not your customer service representative, it is a model. You don’t hire models to work in your organisation; you hire regular people with specific skills. When internet users see HSP’s, it evokes what we call “sinister attributions”, whereby the person detects mild hoodwinkmanship. Placing a picture of a model on your website implies you want everyone who visits your website to believe that the person is one of your staff. The internet is too personal to use HSP’s, though in traditional type advertising it is probably still fair game. Trust scores for websites that used HSPs were on average 32% lower than their industry average.
  1. 2. Forced Advertisements.These are advertisements users cannot escape from watching, such as a lead-in to video footage with no “close” button, or an interstitial advertisement with no “skip” link.  Users have developed an internet browsing protection mechanism over time called “banner blindness” that protects them from discomfort when exposed to too much advertising. But by forcing people to view an advertisement, you penetrate their banner blindness shield, causing discomfort that leads to a state of morbid dissatisfaction. Always include a skip or close button when including advertising on your website. Satisfaction scores were on average 45% lower for website that included forced advertisements than their industry average.
  1. Text with Poor Contrast. In addition to our data, I’ve also noticed this one myself. Website owners continue to mix background and fonts colours that have poor contrast. Even just medium contrast is unacceptable I would argue. Easiest on the eye is white text (or very light grey text) on a black background. But unless you’re running a security or file swapping site, I’d stick with very dark grey (or black) text on a white background. Websites with poor text contrast had website content quality scores 47% lower than their industry average.