Have you ever wondered why some pieces of content go viral? Why you keep seeing the same videos and blog posts shared on Facebook? Or why you see the same cookie recipe showing up over and over on your Pinterest feed?
Why some pieces of content, and not others, may leave you scratching your head. But essentially, viral content is bizarre, controversial or leaves you rolling on the floor laughing. Viral content is sharable and irresistible.
Over the years, I have written content that I just knew would become the next best thing - only to check my website stats to find that my mom was the only person who read it. On the other hand, I’ve produced posts that I thought were “so so” that became insanely popular.
Over the last decade, I have helped brands shape and promote their content, and I’ve learned a few things along the way. While some posts just seem to have the magic sauce to become overnight sensations for no reason at all, it is possible to intentionally increase the chances that your content will go viral.
Let’s do this! Here are the top 10 qualities of viral content.
1. Viral content is sharable
Make your content easy for people to share. Content that goes viral prompts others to post it on their Facebook pages and Pinterest boards. Recipes and DIY projects are usually shareable. Family vacations and birth stories are usually not shareable. Your readers will LOVE reading about your trip to Italy, but it’s not shareable unless it’s something people would feel comfortable posting on their own pages.
2. Viral Content Has a Twist
When is the last time you saw a Pin about how to put your hair in a simple ponytail? Yeah, I don’t remember either. But you’ve seen Pins for fishtail braids, two-minute hair hacks, and curls made with a flatiron, right? It’s not just a cookie recipe - it’s fried oreos or strawberry cheesecake no-bake cookies. You’re picking up what I’m throwing down. It boils down to one thing: viral content is interesting.
3. Viral Content Is Compulsive
You NEED to click that post. NOW! There are a number of ways to make your content ‘compulsive.’ For example:
- Quantity - 25 of the Best Cookie Recipes (can you tell I like cookies?!)
- Quality - The BEST _____ I’ve Ever Tried
- Guilty Pleasure - Sales, “best of” lists, pop culture, etc.
Next time you’re sucked into the dark crevices of the internet, start to notice what makes you click.
And try this little trick: next time you’re waiting in line at the grocery store, read the headlines on all of the magazine covers. Those are perfect examples.
4. Viral Content Has Mass Appeal
When you write a blog post, run a checklist on it to determine if it has mass appeal:
- Would your best friend be interested in this?
- Your mom?
- Your sister?
- The coolest, most “in” blogger you know?
- Your aunt who spends her entire day on Facebook?
You get the picture. When you find ideas that most of the people on that list would like, you know it has viral potential! Try making your own list of diverse people (different ages, styles, and interests) whom you know well enough to predict their interest. It’ll become your cheat sheet for predicting mass appeal.
Here’s the key—It doesn’t happen that often. To be clear - not all the ideas on any blog will have mass appeal. If they did, it would look crazy, like the popular page on Pinterest. Consider mass appeal as a magic moment that only happens once in a blue moon.
5. Viral Content Solves Problems
What is your audience’s pain point? What problem are they trying to solve? If you have a solution, your audience will be interested in what you’re putting out. Everyone wants to learn from someone who has done it successfully.
- How I paid off $25,000 of debt in one year
- 5 hacks that helped me lose 20 pounds
- How to decorate your home with $100 or less
- Get 10,000 email subscribers without spending a dime
Think success stories based on the problems that your audience is trying to solve. Include tips, hacks and advice. Solution-based teaching content based on a real-life experience can become strong viral content.
6. Viral Content is Doable
No one will be interested in your delicious recipe if it has 156 steps. And forget DIY artwork from Pinterest that costs more to make than it does to buy. One important quality of viral content is that it’s doable.
7. Viral Content is Thrifty.
Aren’t you always trying to save a buck? I know I am. Ways to save or get more for your money can be a factor in content going viral. If your idea has a thrifty element, be sure to uncover that in your post.
8. Viral Content is Educational
What kinds of “cheat sheets” can you provide for your audience? Think about how many views a YouTuber can get for showing how to tie a tie or make scrambled eggs. What can you teach your audience today?
9. Viral Content is Inspirational
Even content that wasn’t meant to be viral can become wildly popular if it’s a good idea. Think of all those “holiday card ideas” and “maternity photo ideas” you see floating around on Pinterest. Those are people’s real family photos, and they probably didn’t expect that anyone would ever share them in that way. The most unexpected things can become sharable when it’s an idea that others want to try.
10. Viral Content is Addictive
Think about the YouTube videos, Pins or Facebook posts that keep you coming back, over and over again. What do you have up your sleeve that can make people keep coming back to your blog or social media channels?
Consider this story about a viral blog post.
The word “viral” means different things to different people. For your sake, dear reader, let’s define it as something that is extremely and abnormally popular.
One day, a blogger posted a simple and easy DIY wall art post to her blog. She didn’t spend much time on this post and she didn’t think much of it. When she checked her blog stats later that day, she saw it had generated 100,000 page views. Looking back on that post, it embodied several of the qualities for viral content defined in this list.
Remember: viral posts are budget friendly, easier than they look, solve a common problem, and are very shareable.
As always, there’s another side to this story. What about the posts that don’t go viral? Is there something wrong with them? Were they a waste of time and energy? No way! Creating a regular schedule of good quality content is more important statistically, than any viral activity ever could be.
Guest Post by Molly Beane
Molly Beane is a writer, entrepreneur, yogi, light-seeker and sober warrior. On her site, mollybeane.com, she blogs about addiction recovery, spirituality, wellness and self-improvement. Prior to becoming a full-time writer, Molly spent 10 years as a PR and marketing executive where she contributed to Huffington Post, PR Daily and other media outlets. In 2014, she was named one of the top 25 business leaders in their 20’s by the San Diego Business Journal. She has also earned an RYT-200 yoga teaching certification. Molly is writing a memoir, her first book.