Viral; relating to or involving an image, video, piece of information, etc. that is circulated rapidly and widely from one internet user to another.
Having your content go viral is one of the top goals for many marketers and online businesses. When your content goes viral, it is seen by millions, talked about, discussed, commented on and shared all over the internet.
This huge surge in traffic and attention puts your business in the front and centre and helps you to get noticed by your customers and community. This type of attention also helps to drive sales and increases your reputation in your industry.
There are so many benefits to having your content go viral and it is often one of the most sort out end goals for content marketers and businesses alike. Unfortunately however, there is no proven way to get your content to go viral. There is no recipe you can follow or secret sauce you can add. What makes one thing go viral compared to another is purely luck, however as a wise person once said- luck is opportunity meeting preparedness.
There is a way that you can take every piece of content that you write and prepare it for virality, so when the opportunity does occur, your content is ready to take action.
To do this, we have collated research from reputable sources to determine what viral content has in common. Some of the research that we have found has been collected from over 100 million articles, and hopefully this can help you to get a better understanding of the best way to create viral content.
Here are some of these strategies simplified into 10 easy to follow steps….
1. Longer Posts are Better Than Shorter Posts
From research collected around the web it was discovered that articles that had a higher word count were more likely to go viral than articles with a lower word count. Articles that were over 3,000 words had almost double the shares compared to articles that were under 1,000 words.
It was also found that sixteen times more articles on the web were under 1,000 words, which means that many content marketers and creators are not taking advantage of the benefits of writing longer content.
It is a common misconception to think that shorter articles perform better. While people do love to share funny cat posts and quick, scannable content, they also want more intellectually challenging information that is going to enrich their lives in some way. This can be achieved through offering detailed content that is formatted well and laid out with subheadings, bullet points and easy to read paragraphs.
Certain social media platforms may also be better when it comes to promoting your lengthy content as well. One study found that sending long content (2,000 words+) over email was the best way to promote it and resulted in the most shares. Other platforms where longer, more informative style content would do well includes sites like Google+ and LinkedIn.
Longer content may not work for every brand, but it could be worth the time and investment if you are really looking to offer value and information to your target audience.
Offering more detailed content can also do wonders for your SEO ranking and can help offer more value to your customers. After all, content creation is really about offering your target audience valuable information and increasing your reputation as a trustworthy and dependable brand.
2. Post at the Right Time, in the Right Place
In order for your content to go viral you have to ensure that it is going to get the most visibility it deserves. This means you need to learn the optimal viewing times on each individual social platform in order to give your post the best opportunity.
According to the most up to date research, the best times on each social platform are as follows-
- Facebook: Tuesday
- Twitter: Tuesday
- Pinterest: Monday
- Google+: Tuesday
- LinkedIn: Monday
Tuesday consistently ranked as being one of the top days to for content to go viral. This may be because people are busy catching up on Monday and distracted by the end of the week on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesday was also proven to be a popular day in terms of engagement and activity on Facebook, as many people seem to be more open to a midweek distraction.
The best days to post your content however, ultimately depend upon your target audience and when they are most active on social media. Some brands also find that sharing their content on less popular days helps to gain more visibility, as there is less competition.
To determine the best days for your business, test out a few posts and track them in analytics. You may also want to do some research as to when your specific audience is most active on certain social media accounts.
3. List Articles are the Way to Go
List style articles are the most common form of written content to go viral. This may be because list style articles are easy to read and help to quickly communicate information to your audience. It was also found that the number of items you had on your list made a difference when it came to shareability.
Articles that had lists with 10 items consistently ranked the best. Lists with 23 items came next, followed by lists with 16 and then finally lists with 24.
By selecting one of these numbers, your articles may have a greater chance of being shared and a greater chance of growing viral. While it is not clear why these numbers seem to outperform others, it may be worth experimenting with.
4. Use Images With All Your Articles
Posts with images get twice as many shares compared to posts that have no images. Visual content consistently performs well online, so consider even including multiple images, graphs or even photos to help add meaning to your written content.
Images also have the ability to grab people’s attention and can more quickly convey feelings and emotions. This helps your content to be more shareable, likeable and comment worthy.
When it comes to creating the perfect content strategy, your brand should also be focused on making different styles of content such as slides, infographics and videos, as you never know which one is going to speak the loudest to your audience.
5. Stay Positive With Your Content
Articles that focus on positive feelings and words are more likely to get more shares. A study found that “cute” and “happy” articles that made people laugh or smile were more likely to engage users and become viral.
According to the study, articles that were “cute” generated over 25 percent of total shares, articles that were funny generated over 17 percent of total shares and articles that were entertaining generated around 15 percent of shares.
This means for your content to go viral, it really needs to have some element of entertainment to it. It may be difficult to create this depending on your brand, but try thinking outside of the box to determine if there is a way you can create this style of content and still have it make sense for your brand.
Other emotions that were able to illicit a viral response included-
- Awe (25%)
- Laughter (17%)
- Amusement (15%)
- Joy (14%)
- Anger and Empathy (6%)
- Surprised (2%)
- Sadness (1%)
As you can see, emotions like sadness and anger do not really do well when it comes to creating viral content, so try to keep it all positive. Awe can also be conveyed in a number of ways, so get creative with your content and see what you can create that is relevant to your brand and consumers.
6. Try a Quiz Style Post to Make Your Content Personalised
Speaking of creating entertaining content, one way that you can do that is to create a quiz of some kind. Out of all the content that has gone viral around the web, quizzes consistently rank as being some of the top styles of posts. One study even found that 10 of the most shared articles around the web were quizzes.
The reason for this is that quizzes help your audience to feel that your content is being tailored specifically for them. Quizzes also help to feed the human ego and allow your readers to feel important and valued. Quizzes also illicit a certain level of curiosity, especially if their friends have taken them and shared their results on one of their social media feeds.
As part of a research project from the New York Times, it was found that the reason people like to share content online includes-
- That it makes valuable content entertaining
- It helps to define others and give people a better sense of what they stand for
- It helps to grow and nourish relationships
- It helps them to feel more involved in the world
- It showcases causes that they care about
Quizzes can easily fit into majority of these categories, which is why they are a popular choice. No matter what brand you have, creating a quiz is possible. Just think about a particular trait or quality that your target audience may like to know or understand better and use that as the basis for your quiz. There are also plenty of free quiz makers online that you can easily upload and integrate onto your site, so take advantage of it and have fun.
If quizzes simply wont fit with your brand image, try to think of another way to make your content shareable by following the guidelines discovered by the New York Times.
7. Create Infographics for More Shares
List style posts are definitely the most popular when it comes to viral content, however infographics are following closely behind in second place. (This is then followed by “how to”, “what is” and “why” posts).
List style posts are popular because they help to narrow down the information in easy to read steps, and in many ways, infographics are the same. By providing all of the information in a colourful and easy to read format, people are more likely to understand and absorb your content and are therefore more likely to share it.
Combining lists with infographics might be the best way to narrow in on this current trend, so experiment with that and see what results it yields you.
There are also plenty of great tools out there that can help you to create infographics for free or at a limited cost.
8. Keep Reposting Your Content
You spend a lot of time writing and curating content, so don’t let it all go to waste. Keep sharing your timeless content again and again for more shares and increased visibility.
In one study it was found that by reposting your content around one week later you can earn quadruple the number of shares.
This is because one study found that the average number of shares dropped by close to 96 percent just a few days after posting the article.
Over a four day period there was a 98.9% drop on Facebook, 97% drop on Twitter, 97 percent drop on LinkedIn and a 96% drop on Pinterest.
This means that unless you keep continually sharing your content, it will get lost in the abyss that is the world wide web.
Most social media sites like Facebook don’t show your content to all your followers anyway, so by reposting you are helping ensure that more people see your content and are actually given the opportunity to share it.
Most viral content that is not based on a trending topic or event is also often at least a few weeks old before it goes big, so don’t give up marketing your posts.
9. Use Influencers to Your Advantage
The new buzzword in marketing is “influencers“. These are people with strong social followings that have the power to convince and promote certain products, brands or services. The reason why “influencers” are so influential is because their followers trust them, and look to them for advice and guidance in their particular niche market.
From all of the posts that have gone viral in recent months, it was discovered that when a social influencer shared a piece of content, it received 32 percent more shares. That means that for every 1 social influencer that you get to promote your content you receive at least 30 percent more shares.
Social influencers are powerful, so the more you can team up with them and have them share and promote your content, the more chances you have of going viral.
The best way to reach out to social influencers is to write an article about them or mention their name or social account in an article or social media post. This helps to increase the chances of being mentioned or shared by the influencer. Other techniques you can employ include-
- Asking them for a quote that you will use in their articles
- Asking them a question to get feedback on an idea
- Linking to something that they wrote about that is inline with your brand
10. Be trustworthy
Being trustworthy online can be a hard thing to do, but once you have established a name and authority for yourself, your content will be far more shareable and far more likely to go viral.
It was found that articles that listed the author and a brief description about who they are, were more likely to go viral than authors who remained anonymous. This is probably because by including information about the author it helps to convey trust and puts a face to the message.
One study found that by including an author byline, shares increased by over 42 percent on Google+. The same was true for all the other major platforms except for Facebook.
The reason why Facebook users didn’t seem to mind about the author byline is probably due to the type of content most commonly shared on Facebook and the fact that most people on Facebook are sharing content between friends.
We understand that every brand has different and has different needs, so if you are really looking to workshop what viral content may look like for your business, consider the following questions to help you get started-
- What types of emotions do you want your articles to evoke? Are the aligned with the most popular emotions to go viral?
- Why style of posts are you going to write? Do they include lists and infographics?
- Are you going to create long or short form content? What resonates with your audience?
- How are you going to convey trust in your posts? Will you include an author byline?
- Have you included one or more images in your posts?
- Have you reached out to influencers to network and potentially receive social shares? How many influencers are you going to connect with?
- What are the best days of the week to publish your articles on social media?
By answering these questions in your content creation strategy, it will help you to create viral content no matter what style of business you run. It will also help you to add some of the proven viral strategies into your work, so you can be sure you are giving your content the best chance to stand out from the crowd.
Viral content is bold content, and the more you can work on creating engaging content that inspires emotion, the greater chance you have of creating a buzz.
While there may not be any magic ingredient that can send your content viral every time guaranteed, there is a lot of research out there on what makes content go viral.
This research can help to ensure that you are giving your content the best opportunity and the best chances of being seen by the people who matter.
Here is a quick summary list of the 10 best ways to create viral content–
- Aim to write at least 2,000 to 3,000 words per post in order to increase the amount of shares. Be sure that your long style content also includes relevant sub-headings and is easy to read. You may also want to consider sharing your long form content with your email list.
- Research shows that Tuesday is one of the best days to post and share content on the top social media platforms, followed by Monday and Wednesday.
- List articles are consistently the most shared style of post online. Aim for your list to have at least 10 items as this was proven to be the top number when it comes to going viral.
- Use images with your articles every time, as this helps to increase the number of shares your content will receive by almost half.
- Positive content is more likely to go viral than content that evokes fear, sadness or anger. The top emotions evoked from viral content includes- awe, laughter and happiness. Aim for your content to generate these emotions.
- Try quiz style posts to increase your chances of going viral. If this won’t work for your brand image try to create content that is personalised and helps to make your readers feel special in some way.
- Experiment with creating infographics for more shares. Infographics are rapidly increasing in popularity and are becoming just as viral as list style posts. You may even want to try different content types as well such as videos, slides and downloadable templates.
- Keep reposting your timeless content across various social media platforms in order to increase visibility and shares. This will also increase the chances of your content going viral.
- Reach out to influencers in your industry and try to get them to share your content. This will result in a 30% increase in shares. To do this, ask your influencers for a quote, or simply mention or tag them in one of your posts.
- Convey trust to your readers by providing an author byline and offering valuable content that is relevant to your audience. The more trusted you are, the more likely you are to receive shares and go viral.
By following these simple guidelines, you can be well on the way to creating content that gets shares hundreds, if not millions of times over.
So, why not include these strategies in your content creation and see if they can help you to become the king of your jungle?