When a piece of content goes viral, it means that millions of people are sharing it over the web. People are posting it to their Facebook walls, tweeting about it, pinning it on Pinterest if it’s a visual; basically, everyone’s sharing it and no one can stop talking about it. But what makes one piece of content more shareable and re-tweetable than another? While some would say its sheer luck, that’s hardly the only reason. In fact, most pieces of content go viral for one reason: they struck a nerve in some way with the reader. Capitalize on that idea and strike a nerve with these six tips.
1. Tell a Story
Storytelling has been around for centuries because people love a good story, particularly ones with happy endings. If you make someone feel inspired, they might just feel so inspired to pass the story on. That’s why sites like Upworthy tend to work so well. Their headlines alone tell a story and encourage people to click on their videos. Furthermore, consider how you frame the story: from the headline to the story’s payoff, every word (or sound bite, or image) matters.
2. Evoke an Emotion
Part of a share-worthy piece of content is the emotion it evokes. When a piece of content evokes positive feelings, like awe and happiness, the chances are greater that the reader will share what they’ve read. At the same time, even cute things, that make us feel warm fuzzies — like babies and pets, can evoke a positive emotion.
That said, negative emotions have their place too, especially anger and fear. Anger someone enough and they’re sure to start a debate on their Facebook page or Twitter feed about the message in your content. Controversy can be a great motivator when it comes to hitting share. Even so, happy emotions typically trump sad ones, because people like happy endings.
3. Be Useful
While how-to guides are (most likely) not going to go viral, there’s something to be said for providing useful and timely content. These pieces generally make big claims and then back them up with solid proof and examples, all while offering incredibly interesting stories or takes on the world. Take Slate.com’s most viral article of 2013, “This Awesome Ad, Set to the Beastie Boys, Is How to Get Girls to Become Engineers.” The article took a video, which had already gone viral in its own right, and crafted an article with a headline that showed why a reader would find this piece of information important.
4. Provide “Inside” Information
People love to be in the know. They also like to be the first person to find the latest and greatest thing. Offer inside knowledge and you’re offering your audience “social currency.” Often, these pieces of content create a new spin on an old topic. They also frequently open up the door to a new world, so to speak — such as a letter from a stay-at-home mom to a “working” mom.
5. Promote Your Content
In order for content to go viral, someone has to see it. Not only that, someone has to see it and find it interesting enough to share. Make sure you’re adequately promoting your content once it’s published. Share it on your social media networks and ask your family and friends to share it, feature it on your blog, outreach to heavy hitters in the industry it’s related to and ask if they’ll share it. After all, people can’t share your content if they can’t find it. Make sure you’re also optimizing your content for SEO, so it appears in search engines.
While all these tips are helpful, there really is no magic formula for why one piece of content about cuddling toddlers and dogs goes viral, while a similar video doesn’t. One thing is clear, anyone can create content that goes viral. It doesn’t matter if you’re an audit service, or an energy drink company. As long as you create quality, interesting content that appeals to human emotion in some way, your content has as good a chance as any to go viral.