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Top Tips for Creating Viral Content

In my previous post, we looked at seven fascinating reasons a piece of content triggers extraordinary levels of sharing. Today we’ll explore some of the key ways you can boost virality in order to increase brand exposure and drive more traffic. Keep in mind that in addition to the following tips, you should also use the seven reasons as a guideline for creating content.

Tip 1: Create a Killer Headline

Dull headlines often struggle to elicit a click, let alone a “share.” Just think about the type of content you open and the compelling headlines that initially draw you to it. The title of a viral piece has to be better than good in order to create curiosity, hook an audience, and convince people to open and view your content. Make sure you spend plenty of time practicing the art of constructing killer headlines and keep an eye on your analytics to see which posts generate the most interest. Over time, you’ll figure out what works for you and which type of headlines increase your chances of going viral.

Tip 2: Think About Your Audience

When developing content, you should consider the people who are likely to share it, as well as the audience with which they are sharing it. If your content isn’t the right fit, then they probably won’t pass it along to others. Make sure you create content people will readily publicize to their following.

Tip 3: Push the Buttons on High-Arousal Emotions

It’s not easy, but if you’re hoping a specific piece of content will attain viral status then you need to ensure it activates a high-arousal emotion. Make your content remarkable, tantalize your audience, challenge myths, make thought-provoking statements, do something unexpected, show people what they’re missing and what they’re doing wrong, or simply make them laugh. Be careful not to cross a line, or you could damage your brand.

Tip 4: Provide Incredible Value

By offering exceptional value, you can drastically increase your potential to achieve higher levels of virality. Kick your content marketing strategy up a notch by ensuring your content is fresh, that it offers information to exceed your audience’s expectations, and that it’s worth sharing.

Tip 5: Publish Content in Digestible Formats

Since people absorb information in different ways, consider converting your best content into a variety of formats. Infographics, videos, podcasts, slideshow presentations, articles, images, interactive content, and blog posts are just a few popular options. Written content is great, but make it easy to digest by formulating lists, expert round-ups, and other similar articles. You also want to consider readability and scannability factors, as well as adding rich media to break up text when dealing with written content.

Tip 6: Make Your Content Useful

In my previous post, I highlighted the fact that viral content is usually useful and provided a few examples of the types of content you can create. The thing is that useful content doesn’t only provide an explanation. It also demonstrates how to apply the concepts you’ve outlined. Readers need to be spoon-fed with clear and easy-to-follow steps. When you show them what to do, you’ll find they’ll start sharing your helpful and practical content with their friends, family, and business associates.

Tip 7: Be Creative and Unique

If you’re able to create your own appealing and original brand of content, you not only increase social sharing, but you also improve brand recognition. Businesses that have created interesting and funny characters, for example, have seen a spike in the virality of their content. Special characters may not necessarily fit your brand, but there are many creative things you can do to encourage sharing.

Tip 8: Make It Easy For People to Share

With so many social media sharing buttons available these days, it’s almost impossible to fail at this aspect of content marketing. Be sure to integrate social sharing widgets into your website and blog so that you receive a link back to your site.

Tip 9: Explore Your Distribution Options

Using the right set of platforms is crucial since you want as many people as possible to view your content. Therefore, you need to assess appropriate distribution channels for the type of content you’ve created and determine where you’re likely to benefit most. For example, you don’t necessarily need to publish solely on Youtube just because you’ve created a video. You can also upload your content to video sharing sites such as Vimeo and Metacafe to maximize your exposure.

Also, don’t forget to consider mobile apps. Many apps now make it possible to share on the go, which means you can reach your audience even when they’re away from their computers.

Tip 10: Promote

Once a piece of content goes viral, your promotion will take on a life of it’s own. However, you need to promote it initially if you want people to know your content exists. If you have a strong online presence, you’re already at an advantage. Use your website, blog, social media sites, and email to inform your audience of any new items you create. If you have solid relationships with industry leaders, then try to obtain influencer buy-in if you can. Influencers can help you generate much needed attention from their massive following right from the start.

Ultimately, you need to measure and monitor the success of your content. While there is no way to guarantee your success, you can still pinpoint tactics that work for you. You never know when something will catch on, so keep these tips in mind when planning your content.

Do you have viral marketing tips you’d like to add? Let us know which tactics work for you in the comment box below.

7 Reasons Content Goes Viral

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.

Viral Marketing

Viral marketing is a concept with blurry edges. What some people see as viral, others see as another form of advertising. In reality, though, viral marketing can come in any form. What makes something viral is the way the audience reacts to it, namely they help spread the message as far as it can go.

Some of the best examples of things going viral online have nothing to do with advertisers or spreading a message which is perhaps why they worked so well but the protests of Chris Crocker or the actions of the Jedi kid will live long in the memory of so many across the globe. It’s quite possible that if there was a brand or advertising message attached to either of these their success would have been much more limited. It is, however, possible for a large corporation to have advertising material go viral, but they need to work a lot harder for this to happen.

One of the early innovators of viral marketing was Hotmail. When the e-mail service began, it was one of the few that was free and let you check your messages from anywhere in the world (rather than from one computer). To make sure people heard about this, Hotmail put a footer in every e-mail sent from one of its accounts to tell the recipient about the new, free service. Hotmail soon became the most popular e-mail provider online and many others since have tried to emulate its success with the same tactic.

Viral marketing campaigns often flounder. While some such as Shakira’s YouTube campaign prior to the release of her single She Wolf  simply proved ineffective, other advertising campaigns can backfire significantly on a company. Habitat, the UK furniture retailer, found itself receiving a lot of bad press after a Twitter campaign gone wrong, namely that they were tweeting about their special offers and using unrelated trending hashtags to help get them seen hashtags that, at the time, included a lot about the Iranian election protests. They say that there’s no such thing as bad coverage, so maybe the Habitat campaign was actually hugely successful.

Old Spice got their commercials, and rather odd catchphrases, to go viral simply with humour. The success of their ads and the lead star was seen when they held a question and answer day, allowing fans to get funny video responses to their queries round the clock. The Facebook page has more than a million followers, which isn’t too bad for a deodorant.

T-Mobile garnered interest in a different way. They were one of the first advertisers to make use of a flash mob, taking over a whole railway station with a dance troupe as they filmed from various angles. The novelty and overall appeal of the whole video soon spread round the internet.

The importance of a viral marketing campaign is that people will want to, or have to, spread it to their friends. It doesn’t matter if it’s done in a funny, thought-provoking or just plain entertaining way, so long as people want to share it. If it’s been done before, people are unlikely to be impressed. If it’s intrusive or is too complicated to pass on, they’re unlikely to do so. If there’s nothing actually interesting about what you’re doing to anyone outside your company, it’s not going to spread. Getting the balance right can be a tricky thing as quite often, the closer you get to something that’s likely to go viral, the less corporate and professional it looks. Although many companies these days are trying to be as casual as possible, there are still others who are determined to keep up their straight-edge image.

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