Plainly speaking, content has “gone viral” when it is widely shared and well received. When mass sharing of content occurs, the awareness of featured information and advertising increases exponentially. Naturally online marketers strive to optimise their efforts by creating content with the purpose of going viral.
The unfortunate truth is a lot of content, despite being of excellent quality and relevance, never enjoys widespread attention. So, how can a marketer ensure the content he or she creates has a fighting chance?
Viral content can be video, interactive quizzes and games, an infographic, or just a relatively simple blog post or article. The trick is appealing to a large enough audience, and creating a desire to pass your content on to others.
What kind of content goes viral?
In an attempt to discover what types of content gets shared the most, behavioural scientists based a study on over 7000 articles published by the Times magazine between September 30th and November 30th of 2008. The researchers looked at online and print placement, complexity, length and timing, as well as the popularity and gender of the author.
In their findings, the scientists saw two main factors contributing to an article’s sharing success. These factors are the positivity of a message and how much it excited its reader. Topics that evoked a strong emotional response were shared much more widely than purely subjective content.
So should all content just be pictures of puppies?
Evoking a strong, and preferably positive, response in a viewer or reader is not the be all and end all of creating viral-worthy content. A basic checklist of contributing factors can be summed up as follows:
Is your content social currency?
People love to feel smart and in-the-know. Sharing trending content, like memes and hashtags, on social media help internet users boost their up-to-date status. This type of content is known as social currency and often originates from an insider culture. The popularity of sharing grows as other internet users “catch on”.
Is your information well presented?
In terms of the internet, well presented content is synonymous with bite sized pieces of copy than can easily be scanned for relevance. Lists, slideshows and infographics are effective ways of getting a lot of information across to a reader. In turn, easily readable content is more likely to be passed on to a readers sharing circle than a solid block of text.
Do you have a story?
Whether shocking, scandalous, hilarious or inspirational, internet users love coming across a story that challenges or surprises them. Just an attention grabbing headline can often make all the difference in how many people read or watch a particular piece of content. The trick often lies in being brave and going for the controversial topic rather than the safe one.
So how did Grumpy Cat become a global icon, why the hell did we love Gangnam Style and will we ever stop poking fun at Chuck Norris?
Whilst most viral content in some way conforms to these basic guidelines, there is still no fool-proof method of ensuring a particular piece of content will enjoy mass attention… yet!