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Published on April 14th, 2016 | by Guest


Creating Viral Content – 6 Steps

Not long ago, a teen had his wisdom teeth out and was given an anesthetic for the procedure. On the way home, he was videoed by one of his parents, as he was coming out of the anesthetic but still not lucid and rational. It was hilarious and went viral. More recently, a picture of a dog lying on his dead owner’s casket (owner was killed in the Middle East) also went viral with almost 1.5 million likes and counting. The viral nature of these two items could probably have been predicted – people love humor and they love poignancy. Creating viral content for marketing purposes is not so easy, but it can be done – it is just far less predictable and takes more effort than a short video or a single photo. While no one can guarantee that content will go viral, there are certain steps you can take to help it along. Here are six of those steps.

1. Set a Goal for Engagement

A blog post that is instructional and very valuable to your niche audience will be read and shared. It will probably not go viral beyond that niche audience. You have to ask yourself if your goal is to engage your niche market by providing value or to spread your brand to a larger audience by creating something that will entertain or inspire. If the latter is your goal, then you do want to incorporate those elements that stand a chance of going viral.

2. Know Your Audience

The first stage of getting content to go viral is to understand the type of content that your specific audience will want to share with everyone they know. If, for example, you niche audience is the millennial generation, how much do you really know about them? What do they find funny or inspirational? If your niche audience is adults who must buy insurance for their cars and homes, what might they find humorous or inspirational? There is a reason Geico Insurance has its gecko and its gecko has his own Facebook page and Twitter and Instagram accounts. People follow him and share the silly, the sweet, and the inspirational things he says and does on his page. Geico is almost a household name because of this gecko. What type of creative content can you produce based on your audience?



3. You Must Appeal to Emotions

There has been a lot of research on emotional appeal of content, so you merely have to take what others have learned and use it. A study conducted by two Wharton School of Business students provides good guidance here. They spent 3 months researching which articles in the online New York Times got the most shares. Here is what they found resulted in viral content:

  • Content that arouses surprise and amusement, even awe, is more often shared.
  • Content that arouses anger or worry is also shared more
  • Content that makes people “look good” to their peers is shared more – if someone can share a piece of content that gives him higher “social standing,” s/he will share it. If there is a great discount on a product publicized on Facebook, if there is content that informs others how to avoid something dangerous, it will be shared. WD-40 is a pretty boring product. But when it produced a list of all of the crazy uses for WD-40, the content went viral. People were surprised and amazed and they shared it because they wanted “social standing.”


Geico and WD-40 figured out what emotional triggers they could use to go viral. Now it’s your turn to figure out the same for your product or service. Humor is always good, of course, but there are others too. WD-40 didn’t just use awe – its list is an amazing “how to” as well. “How to’s” can go viral.

4. Visuals

Never publish a piece of content without a visual. If you look at content that goes viral, there are usually visuals accompanying it – great photos, infographics, videos, etc. Think of the content that you share with friends on Facebook. Most of it will have some visual aspect.

For content marketers, the possibilities are almost endless. Photos of customers are always great. ModCloth does a great job of this, soliciting photos of customers wearing their clothing and posting them all over social media and on its blog.


Using animals is another great visual with a chance to go viral; “how to” videos will be shared.

Example: Razors are not a particularly exciting product – a necessity yes, but not glamorous or humorous. Dollar Shave Club found a way to be hilarious with a video – it went viral. If you have not watched it, you must.


5. A Good Headline Helps

There are some content marketing experts that claim you should spend as much time on your headline or title for a piece as you spend on the piece of content itself. If that title or headline intrigues, asks a question, promises a numbered list, or in some way is highly appealing, the content will be accessed. The next job you have, of course, is to make that content fresh and valuable. Sometimes content marketers can get so focused on the other aspects of attracting readers, they can forget that the content has to be as compelling as the other aspects of engaging a reader. But, a boring headline means your content won’t be accessed at all, no matter how good it is. If you are not creative with headline, then use some of the great generator tools that are now available.

6. When and Where to Publish

If you know your audience well, you know where it is online. You can’t be everywhere, so pick the 2-3 places that are most popular with your target audience and focus on those, as well as on your blog (which, of course, you will promote on those 2-3 online places). Facebook is a pretty good bet for both B2C and B2B businesses. Beyond that, do the research on your audience and get it right.

When to publish is just as important. Nothing will go viral if it is not seen by the right people – your target audience. Fortunately, you don’t have to figure this out on your own. The research has been done and you only need to study it to know when and how often to post.

What does Viral Mean to You?

The teen coming home from the dentist was a great, amusing video. So are pictures of cats and ducks sharing the love. But, as a business owner who must focus on sales, going viral should have a more focused meaning. You want your content to go viral with those who are potential customers. So, focus on that. If it goes beyond that and you become a sensation, then that would be exciting and fun.


About the author:

Norman Arvidsson is a web developer with more than three years of experience and also a contributing blogger. Interested in areas such as web design, development, marketing, small business, and self-improvement. You can contact him through his Facebook or Twitter.

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