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5 Secrets to Creating Viral Content

Creating viral content can be tricky. There is no step by step guide. In fact, sometimes it all comes down to “Right Place” and “Right Time”. However, there are 5 Key Rules to keep in mind – when creating your content – to maximize the chances of your content going viral.

Prerequisite Work

While you may be eager to hear all about the 5 Key Rules, there is something we must cover beforehand. Before we dive into the rules, it is imperative that we look into why people share content in the first place. As Dale Carnegie wrote, “By becoming interested in the cause, we are less likely to dislike the effect”.

A couple of years ago, The New York Times interviewed 2500 people to determine why they shared a photo, article, or video online.

The most popular reasons are as follows:

  • To bring valuable and entertaining content to one another

  • To define themselves to others (give friends / followers a better sense of who they are)

  • To grow and nourish relationships (stay connected with others)

  • For self-fulfillment (to feel more involved – attention seeking)

  • To get the word out on causes they care about

As I read this list, I immediately could relate to every single bullet point; and I am sure you can too. Social Media accounts are our own personal platforms for us to showcase who we are and connect with others.

So how do we create content that will appeal to one or more of these reasons?


1) Evoke Emotion

These emotions can range from sadness and humor to horrified and pure awe. Creating an emotional reaction with your content should be your number one priority. There is nothing quite like reading (watching) something and feeling so strong about it that you want to share it with everyone you know.

You are obviously not going to please everyone. The good news is, that does not matter. Want to know why? Because, as long as you evoke emotions, even those that do not agree with your message or content will share it. On the internet, everyone likes to give their two cents and opinions on topics that evoke emotion.


2) Make Sure it Lets Them Look Smart

If a post makes an individual look smart or important, chances are they will pass it onto their friends and followers. Everyone is looking for “Social Currency”. Give them something to show off. A couple of years ago, Linkedin sent out emails to special members that were part of the top 5 percent of most viewed profiles. Thousands of the special members flocked to Facebook and Twitter to parade their newly crowned “Top 5 Percent” status. While those users certainly gained some social currency, the biggest winner was LinkedIn. Now, this does not mean that the content has to directly relate to the user. Users will like and share content that shows off their knowledge (interest) in a certain area or their charitable tendencies.


3) Headlines Matter

Your headline, or text accompanying a video, matters. Just look at this posts’s title – “5 Secrets to Creating Viral Content”. It’s direct, and offers a solutions to a problem (specific to Novo’s target market). Numbers are also important. Numbers and lists are also popular and effective. In fact, a recent study done by Conductor showed that people favor headlines that include numbers the most – for example: “30 Ways to Make Drinking Water More Delightful”.

Lastly, power words can be the icing on the cake. Buzzfeed are masters as using power words to draw readers in and get them to share their content. Some of the most common power words are: Secret, Reveal, Stunning, and Confessions.


4) Structure Matters

In 2006, user experience research group Nielsen Norman conducted a study on eye-tracking visualization. The goal of this study was to determine the exact locations the human eye frequents most, on a webpage. The analysis revealed that users read content on a website in an F-Shaped pattern (Illustrated Below)

This means that when someone visits your website, landing page, or views your advertisement, they follow two horizontal stripes and then a vertical stripe to take in the information. Knowing this information, you may want to structure your pages to include “Share” links or CTAs (Call to Actions) on the upper left-hand side of the page. You should also use this information to create a page or content that the user can easily follow and read.


5) Keep it Short

This one is simple, keep it short. The average user’s attention span is constantly shrinking. Currently, the average web and smartphone user has an attention span of eight seconds – eight seconds. Researchers in Canada showed that the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds to 8 seconds. We now possess a shorter attention span than goldfish.

Because of this, the content that you create needs to be short, simple, and direct. Your videos should be under 1 minute (preferably in the 30 – 45 second range) and keep text to a minimum on images. There is an obvious exception to this – those long emotional Facebook stories (or videos) that go viral. These posts go viral, despite their length, because they contain an overpowering dose of emotion and user reference. What is user reference – that is when one of your friends or users you are following shares the post and captions it with something along the lines of: “Oh my god! This is so heartbreaking, everyone needs to read”. Users are far more likely to take time out of their day to watch a long video, or read a long post, if someone they personally know vouches for it.


Now, go out there and start creating! Keep in mind, this is the bare bones. Keep up to date with latest trends, and study other campaigns that are working to learn more.

Side Note:

If you are going to heavily base your content on humor, make sure that you are not creating content that may – in any way – offend a group of people (no matter how small). Even though most people may not be directly offended, chances are that they will be reluctant to share your content if they feel like they might offend someone else by sharing it.

#SocialMediaMarketing #DigitalMarketing #ViralContent

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