Viral content can take many forms. This includes written content, infographics, videos and images. Yet, despite their differences, all forms of viral content have one thing in common; there’s something about them which is worth sharing.
Although it may seem as though such content has a life of its own, there is actually a method to the madness, and understanding this method will help you to create your own. In fact, many instantly recognisable forms of viral content have actually been created as part of clever, innovative marketing campaigns; for example, The Blair Witch Project and Burger King’s ‘Subservient Chicken’. Well planned and highly creative, they appealed to web users on a number of different levels.
Understanding Viral Content
To create a piece of viral content, it’s imperative that we are able to understand just what it is that makes such content appealing, and therefore share-worthy.
There are 8 elements which are often found in viral content, the inclusion of which will also improve the chances of your content going viral. The most interesting and shareable content on the internet has tended to include many, if not all, of these elements:
- High Energy
- Author credibility
- Good length and coverage
There is also more of a chance of your content going viral if it involves media in some form. Media is quicker to digest than written content, as complicated information can be condensed and made more understandable. In addition, media is more easily shareable and has the potential to be more emotive. All of these things will benefit your intended audience, who won’t want to shift through large amounts of dense information to find meaning, or be entertained.
Adapting Written Content for Sharing
When it comes to written content of the sort commonly found in blogs, limitations are necessarily imposed by the lack of visual appeal. Therefore, it becomes necessary to examine the specific types of written content which have previously gone viral, and to determine which of their attributes might have contributed to their popularity.
Simply by taking a cursory glance at some written viral content, we can instantly see a common factor. Their headlines are big, bold and have instant impact. And, in addition to being clearly understandable, a good headline is also attention grabbing and emotive. The importance of a good headline cannot be overstated. A headline is your first call to action; an incentive for your audience to keep reading, or to click, like or share your content with their friends.
The Fear of Missing Out?
It’s been said that one of the deepest, most primitive emotions we are capable of experiencing is fear. As an incentive, fear is capable of making us do things we maybe wouldn’t normally do.
Of course, you don’t want to terrify your readers with content – in fact, content which inspires positive emotions has been proven to have a much greater potential to go viral than content which makes us feel sad, or depressed. But fear can be a useful emotion to utilise, especially in the context of ‘missing out’.
Some of the most popular blog content of recent years has utilised this fear to good effect, going viral as a result of people who are afraid that they might miss out by not reading the content. Marc and Angel Chernoff’s blog post ’30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself’ is a great example of this, as it offers unique content, with practical application, under a header which implies that you may miss out if you don’t read the post. The result? The Chernoff’s post got over 500,00 likes and 20,000 tweets, as well as thousands of shares on other networks.
The Practical Aspects of Writing a Viral Blog
Unfortunately, there is no blueprint for creating viral content, only tips and tricks which we can use to tip the odds in our favour. However these tips and tricks can be useful, as they provide a rough guide for creating content which is more likely to be shared than not.
For example, we know from both research and experience that the length of a post directly affects the way in which readers interact with it. Short posts are more likely to receive comments, whereas longer posts are more likely to be shared on twitter. A call to action will increase conversion, and posts which are informative are generally more likely to be shared than those which do not.
Whatever form a piece of viral content takes, at its heart will always be emotion. So the most important advice you can take, when attempting to create your own viral blog post, is to appeal to your audiences emotions. After all, sharing is caring.
[Photograph by Amanda O’Brien]