If you’re posting content on the internet, you want as many eyes on it as possible. More eyes mean more visibility, exposure, and traffic, which leads to increased sales revenue.
But in this age of information overload, it’s not easy to make your content go viral. A punchy headline or a cute cat picture might make someone click on an article, but creating something that people want to share requires a carefully orchestrated content marketing plan.
Why People Share
If you want to make your content go viral, you need to understand why people share in the first place. The New York Times asked 2,500 medium and heavy social sharers what their motivations for sharing were and found that people share:
- To bring valuable and entertaining content to one another
- To define themselves to others
- To grow and nourish relationships
- For self-fulfillment
- To get the word out about causes they care about
What People Share
When someone shares a piece of content, they’re sharing something about themselves. They’re making a statement about what they believe in, the causes they care about, their values, and what they love. According to Jonah Berger, author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, it’s all about making yourself look good and seem smart.
So it’s not surprising that people are more likely to share positive content. But that doesn’t mean people only share funny or cute content. They also share informative, surprising, and newsworthy content — as long as it reflects positively on themselves.
And when content makes people feel something — amused, inspired, shocked, happy — they want to share that experience with others.
How to Make Your Content Go Viral
Every 60 seconds, 500 hours of videos are uploaded to YouTube; 1,440 posts are published on WordPress; 65,972 photos are uploaded to Instagram; 3.3 million posts are published on Facebook; and 3.8 million Google searches are conducted.
Viral posts aren’t the norm, and there isn’t a simple formula for viral success. However, there are ways you can make your content more shareable, even if it doesn’t go viral. Here’s a look at five ways to make the next internet hit.
1. Make an Emotional Connection
People are more likely to share content that makes them happy than sad, that is more positive than negative, and that is more entertaining than infuriating. So create content that invokes awe, laughter, or amusement.
But to trigger these high-arousal emotions, you must first know your audience: What makes them laugh? What motivates them? Who do they want to be like? What will resonate with them?
2. Make It Easy to Share
People like to share good content, but they want to be able to do so quickly and easily. Make sure you include social sharing buttons on each page of your website and “Share This” call-to-actions on every piece of content, whether it’s a guide, quiz, checklist, or infographic.
If you share content on Instagram or Twitter, add a hashtag to your posts so your content is connected to that thread of global conversation. If you share a piece of content on Facebook and performs well, boost it. Unlike an ad that is directly trying to sell something, promoting one of your more successful pieces of content is a great way to make a piece go viral.
3. Leverage Your Influencers
Another powerful way to increase your viral chances is to employ the help and following of influencers. An influencer is anyone who has the power to affect the decisions of your target audience because of their authority, knowledge, or relationship with them.
Who are your followers following other than you? Who do they read about and resonate with? Reach out to these brands and influencers that are popular with your target audience, and arrange a partnership to cross-promote your content. This strategy will quickly expand your social reach, enhance engagement, boost your follower count, and increase your chances of going viral.
Similarly, guest blogs are a great way to promote your content by getting in front of a whole new crowd of people. If you can get your blog post on the right host site that’s already producing viral content, your chances of hitting the right amount of shares are more likely.
4. Keep It Visual
Most viral posts are visual in nature. Video, photographs, infographics, charts, and GIFs all have a better chance of going viral than a long-form piece of content, with infographics receiving the most shares out of any other type of content.
Video is memorable, influential, and continues to gain steam, accounting for 80 percent of all internet traffic. On Facebook, video does particularly well, receiving higher levels of engagement compared to links and status updates. Keep videos short — 60 seconds or less — to increase viewer retention and make them more likely to be shared.
5. Post a Lot of Content
The most successful producers of viral content — BuzzFeed, Upworthy — post a lot of content and study how it performs to find what works best. Experiment with different emotional, content, topic, and format elements, examine which pieces of content receive the most views and shares, and build on the strategies that perform the best.
The more you post, the more data you’ll have to inform your decisions, which will help you improve more quickly and maximize the chance of making your content go viral again. Consider creating different content for different channels and integrating A/B testing into your content headlines to increase shareability.
Going viral doesn’t just happen. It takes a lot of planning and hard work behind the scenes to make sure you’re reaching the right audience. By understanding your audience and their needs and creating content that attracts, engages, and delights, you’ll gain a loyal following that continues to grow whenever your content goes viral.