7 Reasons Content Goes Viral

Viral Content

Most marketers dream of creating a great piece of viral content that tells the world about their brand. Unfortunately, it’s very much a hit and miss game, with few unknown brands successfully generating a viral buzz. Often content that goes viral sits on the Internet for months before it gains any real traction. There’s no guarantee of success, and there’s no magic formula.

Does that mean you shouldn’t aim to create viral content as part of your content marketing strategy? Does this also mean you will never learn how to get a video to go viral? Absolutely not. However, understanding the reasons people share something is critical to your efforts.

Reason 1: It’s Positive

While negative content does go viral, you’ll find that much of the popular content you find online is a far cry from the tragic, dramatic, and sensational news we see every day. People will more likely share a positive video or image than they will share something overly negative.

Coca-Cola’s happiness campaign is a case in point.

Besides the delightful surprise of a gigantic sandwich making it’s way out of a vending machine, doesn’t this video just make you smile?

In addition to the virality of the official video Coca-Cola posted (over 5 million views and counting), the company has benefited from a flood of user-generated content as a result. Coca-Cola has taken their campaign several steps further though, surprising unsuspecting coke-lovers with a happiness truck, plane, store, and table.

In the comments section of one of the brand’s other videos, a passionate viewer asks whether Coke’s greatest rival makes people happy on Youtube. Let’s just say that Coca-Cola wins hands down in the happiness stakes, and their positive content is achieving results. While your business may not be as well known as this popular beverage company, there’s no denying that creating positive sentiments, doing something good, and spreading a little joy can impact your business favorably.

Reason 2: It’s Unbelievable

It’s a natural reaction for people to want to share the extraordinary things they’ve seen. A piece of jaw-dropping content is too irresistible not to pass along to family and friends, especially if an individual knows it will induce the same reaction.

Reason 3: It Inspires High-Arousal Emotions

Content that is deeply emotional or extreme is more likely to go viral than content that evokes low-arousal emotions. For example, your content shouldn’t inspire deactivating emotions such as boredom or sadness, but should rather inspire positive and negative high-arousal feelings such as surprise, joy, fear, and anger.

Reason 4: It Reinforces Our Opinions

When something resonates with individuals, agrees with their values and belief system, or supports their worldview they share it. This content reflects a perspective that helps people express opinions whether it is political, religious, or otherwise.

Reason 5: It’s Useful

Useful content that provides helpful information and practical actions people can implement usually spreads like wildfire across the Internet. Think about video tutorials, step-by-step articles, instructional infographics, and similar content. If people find it useful, they’ll share it.

Reason 6: It’s Elevates Our Mood

Funny content is a perfect example of something that can naturally improve an individual’s mood by making them laugh, or smile at the very least. People who find content hilarious are more inclined to pass it on to others. After all, who wouldn’t want to share a laugh or two with friends?

Reason 7: It’s Thought-Provoking

Content that shows people a new perspective, encourages them to ask questions, and makes them pause for deep introspection often catches the viral train that stops right back at your station.

The reality is that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the creation of viral content. Where a cringe-worthy video that’s shared millions of times can easily be explained, some content goes viral for the simple reason that it’s weird. Whatever you do, make sure you understand why content becomes popular before you develop a content strategy and spend your content marketing budget on something few people will see.

We’ll discuss ways in which you can improve the chances of your content going viral in the next post. For now, I’ll leave you to ponder the virality of this Hassleback Garlic Cheesy Bread that’s been re-pinned over 100,000 times.


What do you think makes content viral? Share your thoughts below.

Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.

Recent Content