Why Content Goes Viral


We’ve all seen them. We’ve all talked about them. And we’ve all probably shared them. I’m talking about viral videos. “Viral” is a common term now and as marketers we can only dream of one day creating content that “goes viral.” While videos stand out, not all viral content is video.

Like with all marketing strategy, brands need to focus on target audiences. What is the best way to attract the attention of your target audience? Is it a video? Is it an infographic? Is it a billboard? Is it a long article. Any piece of content can go viral. Of course, not all great content goes viral, but content that does go viral is great.

While there is no easy formula, I’ve compiled a list of tips to consider when creating content you’d like to see go viral.

  1. Inspire strong emotions. Research shows if users feel an emotional connection to content they are more apt to share it. To be more specific, positive emotions outweigh negative emotions when it comes to sharing content. And digging even deeper, content that creates awe, anxiety, or anger often generates the most engagement.
  2. Provide content that serves practical uses. If users believe the information will be useful to them, they are more apt to want to share and pass along to their followers or friends.
  3. Make sure the content is well-suited for the audience. If the content isn’t interesting to your audience, they won’t share it. Chances are they are following your brand because they are already loyal consumers, keep them engaged and informed by providing them with valuable content.
  4. Easy to share. Make whatever content you’ve created easy to share by utilizing sharing buttons to all social networks. Don’t make your audience work.
  5. Create unique, easy-to-consume content. If users feel like they are being providing with a unique, one-of-a-kind experience, that they understand, chances are they’ll be more willing to share it.

Jonah Berger, a professor at the Wharton School of Business, probably says it best:

“There’s not 100% certainty that a given product or concept will go viral. It’s like a batting average in baseball; no one hits a home run every time. But it’s also not luck. By understanding the science of word of mouth, you improve your average.”

Berger makes a good point about word-of-mouth. When it comes down to it, even if it’s someone clicking “like” or “share” they are still creating buzz or word-of-mouth marketing around certain content. If you can get people “talking” in person or online, your content is more apt to go viral.

Be prepared to fail for a long time. When it comes to creating viral content there is no easy step-by-step process. In fact, many argue it’s more of an art than a science, but that doesn’t mean it’s a mystery. Like with any content, it’s about knowing your audience and keeping their interest. It really doesn’t matter what you’re trying to market, anything can go viral.

Has your company ever produced viral content? If so, what was your strategy. If not, is your company actively trying to create viral content? Should it be?

What’s your favorite piece of viral content and why?

Just for fun…

My top five viral videos:

1. Charlie Bit My Finger

2. Dramatic Prairie Dog

3. Leprechaun in Mobile, Alabama

4. Antoine Dodson

5. Sweet Brown

Other Resources:

The Secret Recipe for Viral Content Marketing Success

Oops, I Ruined the Facebook IPO!

How to Create Viral Content

5 Key Elements of Viral Content [Infographic]


7 thoughts on “Why Content Goes Viral

  1. Your videos had me cracking up. I’d only seen the last two but they are still so funny. At my job we are not creating viral content. If we were to attempt it we’d have to make something funny or tell an emotional story to pull on some heartstrings.

    My favorite viral videos are the ones of babies laughing at ripping paper. They are so cute and funny. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RP4abiHdQpc

  2. My favorit piece of viral content is the Youtube video of the guy who bought almost $400 on Candy Crush items. I can’t watch it without crying from laughing so hard.

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