The Harvard Business Review wrote this week about a recent psychological study that found we can successfully predict which messages will go viral and which won’t. The key to this success, according to the report, lies within the brain of the sender. In short, the more the author of the message values the message itself, the more likely he or she is to be at spreading it. In addition, the more accurately he or she can predict how the audience will respond to it, and the greater his or her desire for the message to spread, the higher the likelihood of success.

At the most basic level, these findings underscore the importance of 1) being passionate about your business and 2) knowing your target audience.  It’s far too easy to lose sight of the end goal – engaging your audience in a meaningful way. We see it all the time, for example when a locally restaurant posts a question to Facebook asking its followers how their day is going rather than letting them know about a new special that night. How will your audience feel about your post? Is it something they will want to share with their friends and family, perhaps with an invitation to join them for dinner? Or if you are a nonprofit with a new outreach program, can you communicate your excitement about the potential impact it will make with a real-life human interest story rather than a message saying you are excited about having kicked off the new program?

The findings imply that you can predict which messages will go viral and which ones will not based on these factors and structure your social media marketing efforts accordingly. By valuing the message, knowing how your audience will respond to it and simply being determined to spread it, it’s possible that you can better engage your existing audience and get the word out about your products or services to a much wider group.