For most digital marketers, creating viral content is the equivalent to finding the Holy Grail. Creating a piece of branded content which is widely viewed and shared across the internet is a sure fire way to drive traffic, brand awareness and ultimately – conversion.
But creating such content isn’t easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it, right? Working out what content has the potential to go viral is a mixture of expertise, luck and timing. When you get it wrong, it’s not so bad. But when you get it right? Ka-ching.
So what is viral content, and how can you give yourself the best chance of creating something with the capacity to go viral? Let’s start with the basics.
Viral content is essentially blogposts, videos or any other form of online content which is widely shared, viewed or read within a short period of time. Remember the Old Spice advert (which has racked up 51 million views on Youtube to date)? Classic example of viral content. It “blew up” in a short period of time, but continues to be popular today.
What makes viral content is your blogpost or video eliciting a strong shared emotion or feeling. Not an easy feat, but here’s our eight simple steps to get you started.
The key to creating viral content is being topical. If your piece of content taps into a story or idea already proving popular online, or that people are already talking about, it’s much more likely to go viral. There are a number of websites and tools out there to help you pinpoint trending topics and news stories which you might be able to use to inform your content, such as Buzzsumo, Newswhip and Google Trends.
As with all pieces of online content, your headline or video title is of vital importance. It’s what readers will use to determine whether or not they want to click, open, share. Keep it short yet enticing.
With this in mind, it’s no use creating a piece of content around the latest celebrity break up if it has absolutely nothing to do with what you’re selling. The topic you choose in the first instance should be relevant to your business – or you should at least be able to find a suitable or humorous angle.
We mentioned before that in order for your content to go viral, it needs to provoke shared emotions in people. There has to be a reason they want to share it, and one of the most successful ways to ensure this is to add a human story behind your video or article. According to Neetzan Zimmerman, viral content extraordinaire at Gawker, “stories that evoke very primal emotions tend to work best”.
Not every piece of content you create is suddenly going to break the internet. Give yourself the best chance by constantly creating new, timely content. You might feel 100% sure that your latest piece is the one – but then an article you churned out in 5 minutes blows it out of the water. There’s one thing you can count on with the internet: you just never know.
Every time a piece of content does well, or indeed, when a piece doesn’t – dig into the stats. What worked and what didn’t? Consider the headline, the length of the piece, your topic. Every time something does or doesn’t work you have new learnings to put in place for next time.
When thinking about content virality, timing is your friend. You might vaguely know the best times to post content, although these are debated (first thing in the morning, lunchtimes, the evening commute are all popular contenders), but when you want your content to go viral, it needs to become a science. Your timing could make the difference between a moderately successful piece of content and a viral one.
You might have created the perfect piece of viral content, but if you don’t get it out there, no one will ever see it. Distribution and promotion are essential for getting as many eyes on your content as you can, allowing it to be viewed and shared as much as possible. Reach for the stars: according to Zimmerman, “getting on Reddit’s front page is still the best way to inject a post with a burst of traffic that, while short-lived, could be of epic proportions”.