Everyone wants their content to go viral.
While your next piece of content may not raise you to the level of Gangnam Style or Grumpy Cat, there are ways to make more buzz-worthy content and to make sharing of the content more contagious.
What makes content viral-worthy?
Jonah Berger, an assistant professor of marketing at the Wharton School of Business, has published many research articles on the topic of viral posts and here are the top 3 things he has found to make a post more viral-worthy:
- Positive content is more viral than negative content.
- Content that evoked high arousal emotions—positive or negative—is more viral than content without emotion.
- Practical, useful content gets shared.
How to make viral content
We can’t guarantee viral content, but based on the principles above, here are some ideas to keep in mind for getting the most reach out of your content (and setting yourself up for the potential that it goes viral):
1. Positive content – Think outside the box (or digital device)
People are overwhelmed by the amount of content online, so it can often be easier to start your online viral campaign offline – especially if it is positive, fun content. Everyone carries a camera in their pocket, so if you set up an “ad” outside somewhere people are going to snap pictures and selfies and start talking about it online.
Now, I put the word “ad” in quotations, because to get viral-worthy attention, your offline content needs to be so much more than an informational billboard or flyer. We are talking about things a little bit bigger and more mysterious. For example, in 2013 a massive dragon skull showed up on England’s Charmouth Beach. There was no big sign accompanying the skull, it took a well-planned content marketing plan to reveal the skull was there to promote Game of Thrones after individuals and the media started getting curious.
Pro tip: Get permission from the city so your awesome campaign doesn’t freak out the city and get bad press. In 2007, Cartoon Network tried this mysterious outdoor advertising in Boston for their show Aqua Teen Hunger Force and arguably had one of the biggest ad fails of all time. Their campaign included light boxes with the show’s antagonist characters making obscene gestures. Well, most people didn’t get the gag and parts of the city were shut down in fear that these were bomb threats. Cartoon Network’s parent company had to pay the city millions and its general manager and executive vice president resigned. Lesson learned: go through the right legal channels before making a splash.
2. Arousal emotions – Work best online
As you can see from the Cartoon Network example, it is best to stick to positive content when you are creating a mysterious, offline campaign; things that will interest people, not freak them out. But online, you can get a lot of attention using arousal emotions – positive and negative. For reference, here are some arousal emotions:
These seven emotions should always be considered in your online content strategy – especially when it comes to blog posts and social media posts. Write or create content that evokes these emotions. You may be wondering how can fear and anger make your content go viral while still making your brand look good. The perfect example comes from one of our real estate clients; they wrote a blog post titled “Mistakes to avoid: Don’t let your buying experience become a horror story” nearly a year ago and to this day if it is posted on any social channel it is one of the top viewed pages that month.
3. Practical content – Become their expert
The horror story blog post example above applied to two of the viral rules: it evoked arousal emotions and was practical. People look to the internet for more than cat pictures; they look there for advice. Expert advice. Be that expert. Create content based on what your business does best. For example, if you are an insurance company, a blog post titled “5 ways to ease your tax preparation process” should fit into what your audience wants. Use catchy examples from the overall content piece as a way to entice your audience to click for more information. For example, “You won’t believe #3” or “You can start #4 in July to make things even easier!” might intrigue your audience to read the post and find out more.
While going viral can be awesome in many ways, focus on making your content great and relevant to your mission. Many times those viral pieces of content become one-hit wonders and viewers don’t necessarily remember what brand, product or otherwise the content was for. Be remembered by providing relevant content that your audience will share. Tap into emotions along the way and if it’s viral-worthy, that’s just another feather in your cap!