How to Make Your Content ‘Go Viral’

Every business wants more web traffic, more video views, more subscribers, more followers and more media attention. There are lots of ways to do it. But if you can get something to go viral online, you can get a whole load of exposure in a short amount of time. But how easy is it to do?

What does ‘go viral’ mean?

Viral content is any piece of media that becomes wildly popular overnight. It could be a YouTube video, Facebook post, a Tweet, an image or any social media content that gets shared thousands and thousands of times. Getting a piece of content to go viral isn’t easy. There’s no formula for a guaranteed viral hit, but there are some things you can do to increase the chances of it happening. Here are a few tips to get people sharing:

Make your content useful and/or funny

Great content has a purpose. If your content has value, either by being educational, informative, or entertaining, it’s more likely to be shared. People like to share useful content with others because it makes them feel altruistic. That’s why ‘how-to’ articles perform so well.

Think about your product or service; think of information that potential customers may not have and put the word ‘secret’ or ‘how to’ in your headline. Then write an engaging piece of content that will satisfy their curiosity.

One of the most successful niches for this type of content is the weight loss industry. This is because it’s a universal concern. Ask pretty much anyone about weight loss and the likelihood is they’ll say they’d love to know the secrets to losing weight. For example, this article from Women’s Health magazine amassed 670,000+ shares in a matter of days. This is because the headline; ‘How One Woman Lost Nearly 100lbs by Making Weight Loss Fun’ and the associated content was direct, clear and actionable. Someone reading it could immediately act on what they’d read. And because the post contained useful, practical advice, people shared it, making it go viral.

Evoke emotion

Many studies have shown that the secret to accruing lots of shares is a strong emotional connection to a piece of content. It’s human nature to want to share content that evokes a strong reaction. For example, when we laugh, we want to tell others the joke. When we’re outraged, we want to commiserate with people likely to feel the same. It means emotionally charged pieces perform better. For example, in 2013, beauty brand Dove commissioned an FBI-trained sketch artist to draw women based on the facial features they described to him. He then sketched the women again, using descriptions provided by strangers who had spent a short amount of time with the women.

When describing themselves, the women invariably exaggerated their least favourite features. The artist heard comments like ‘I have a big jaw,’ ‘I kind of have a fat, round face,’ and ‘I’d say I have a pretty big forehead.’ The finished sketches were displayed side by side, and in each case, the sketch produced from the stranger’s observations was more flattering, and accurate than the women’s.

The strength of the campaign was its emotionally charged content that magnified a phenomenon not often addressed in mainstream advertising: how women tend to ignore our true beauty and focus on our flaws. It forced women to consider the universal tendency to be our own harshest critics, and to be a bit kinder to ourselves when it comes to our appearances.

The video’s message touched a nerve. In its first month alone, it was shared 3.74 million times, which equates to one share for every 30 views. Today, the video has had over 68 million views and is a reminder to women that ‘you’re more beautiful than you think.’

Incorporate a quiz

We’re a nation of quiz-lovers. We love to take them and share the results with our friends. Why? Because we’re on a lifelong journey to define ourselves. This journey involves seeking opportunities for self-discovery and attempting to categorise exactly who we are. Quizzes enable us to do this in a fun and interactive way.

A company that taps into this successfully is American internet media company Buzzfeed. The brand publishes numerous personality-based quizzes every day, with many going viral. Its most popular quiz “What City Should You Actually Live In?” spread furiously across Facebook. 20 million people answered seemingly random questions like ‘what food could you eat forever?’ and ‘what’s on top of your bucket list?’ in order to get an answer to a fairly weighty question that was perfect for sharing. Other Buzzfeed quizzes that have gone viral include, ‘Can we guess your real age?’ and ‘What career should you actually have?’

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