Every blogger, entrepreneur, artist and business owner dreams of the day their content goes viral – in a good way, that is. The online version of “making it big,” who wouldn’t want millions of website visitors and instant name recognition overnight? While most people think of music videos like “Gangnam Style,” or commercial ad campaigns like Dove’s “Real Women, Real Rewards,” viral content can take all forms. Remember the dress? Blog posts, infographics, photos, memes, and even tweets can go viral.
Little is known about the exact formula that causes content to take on a life of its own. Few people have had success in developing it on purpose, and even fewer have been able to repeat the process. However, there are some characteristics that just about all viral content has in common. While nobody can guarantee that your next article, video, or image will be a worldwide sensation, implementing these few tips can certainly increase your chances.
It Needs to Be Emotionally Compelling
You don’t share every quiz your friends post on Facebook or every article you read online, and you probably wouldn’t retweet someone’s message just because they asked you to do it. That’s because regardless of what social media platform you predominately use, it’s a reflection of you. You only share the content you identify with and feel strongly about.
Viral content needs to strike some kind of emotion with its audience, whether it’s happiness, amusement, anger, or general interest in order to get any momentum. Content that instills positive emotions are more likely to pick up traction than those that build on negative ones. After all, you’d be more receptive to a friend showing you a funny video than you would an infographic that breaks down your area’s crime rates.
Content may also be shared because of its relatability. This is when a piece of content so accurately captures the thoughts of a particular audience that it’s shared as a form of support and self-expression. The piece may put into words an idea people struggle to convey or are afraid to express on their own. Examples of this could be political cartoons and opinion pieces.
It Needs to Make a Statement
As content builds in popularity, it creates a sense of exclusivity by separating people into groups of those who have seen it and those who have not. People who have seen the content feel as if they’re part of something special. They take pride in bringing other people into that group by sharing the content with someone else. When striving to create viral content, think about the “club” you’d like to create. What type of statement will sharing this content make? Because your content’s success depends on people’s desire and willingness to be in the club of seen-its, you need to find a way to make that club attractive to your audience.
It’s Okay to Step Out of the Box
Viral content tends to be a little bolder than the typical blog post, photograph or social media update. It breaks away from the cookie-cutter molds and throws away all the rules. It’s not afraid to surprise, shock, awe, irk, or even be silly at its own expense. You have to be willing to think creatively, you have to be willing to follow your “what if…” ideas, and you have to be willing to take a few chances. Most importantly, you have to be resilient. Creating viral marketing isn’t easy, so most of your ideas aren’t going to catch, or they may not catch right away. In addition to being willing to carve out by hand your own place on the internet, you also don’t want to appear as if you’re trying too hard. Content that appears desperate for attention will turn off viewers instead of encouraging them to share.
You need more than a good concept for viral content. You need a good execution. Otherwise you’re risking your content being shared for the wrong reasons. Trustworthiness tends to be a pretty big indicator of whether or not content gets shared. A lot goes into making content look trustworthy. For starters, it should come from a website that has a modern design and is updated on a regular basis.
Your content should also be quick to load. It shouldn’t be covered in pop-ups or ads. Your viewers should be able to identify who and where your content came from. Good execution also refers to the quality of your piece. If it’s a photograph, it needs to be well shot.
If it’s an article, it needs to be well written and free of spelling and grammar mistakes. If it’s a video, adequate time should be spent on the casting, filming and editing process. Infographics should be well designed. Tweets should be well said. Keep in mind that you can’t go wrong by using images. An audience is more likely to share content that includes images than content that doesn't. This is true across all social media platforms.
It’s Easy to Absorb & Share
Often times, viral content just comes down to the right information being shared with the right people and at the right time. That’s why you want to make your content quick and easy for people to snag, consume and push forward. In addition to posting your content on all the appropriate social media channels, you should make it overly simple for others to share it on the platforms they choose as well. Place your social media share buttons in prominent places and consider including options beyond the usual Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn. You should share the same content more than once on your social media sites. The date and time you post may make all the difference in who views and promotes it. With that being said, you don’t want to blast your viewers with your content. No matter how many times you post your blog or video, you can’t make it go viral on your own.