WHAT MAKES CONTENT TO GO VIRAL? (PART 2 OF 2)
Is creating viral content just luck? Or, can it be broken down into a science? It’s debatable. What we do know is that there are a few proven steps you can take to increase your chances of social-sharing success. We’ll let you in on the best ones here.
BUT FIRST! A REALITY CHECK.
According to an analysis by BuzzSumo, viral posts are not the norm–they’re exceptional. The average number of shares in their study of over 500 million articles was only 8, so you can probably lower the bar you’ve set for your brand by quite a bit.
WRITE THINGS THAT PEOPLE WANT TO READ.
Regardless of the various tips and tricks you may find, there’s simply no replacement for writing compelling content. Most consumers are vaccinated against mediocre content at this point in time. Your audience wants you to woo them with your expertise and they won’t settle for any less. This may explain why, contrary to popular belief, long form content gets more social shares than short form content.Long form content requires you to write in-depth, well-researched articles packed with insights – something most brands won’t bother doing. This indicates two things:
1) People value quality content, and
2) long-form content has less competition, which makes it more likely to be shared.
Don’t just write content for the sake of writing content. Make it worthwhile, and your audience will thank you for it. Which brings us to the next point.
CONSIDER YOUR AUDIENCE.
Yep, seems pretty self-explanatory, but often is overlooked. Think about who’s listening. Who will like your idea so much that they’ll feel compelled to share it? In the words of Seth Godin, “Sell to people who are listening and maybe they’ll tell their friends”.
What will make them want to tell their friends? The New York Times interviewed 2500 people to determine the primary reasons they shared a story online:
- Bringing valuable and entertaining content to one another
- Defining themselves to others (giving people a better sense of who they are)
- Growing and nourishing relationships (staying connected with others)
- For self-fulfillment (to feel more involved in the world)
- To get the word out on causes they care about.
When you create your content, think about the ideal audience member you want to reach and appeal to what would make him or her share your piece. One strategic way to go about this is to pinpoint influencers–the people who, if they do share your content, will extend your reach in the most efficient way. Just having one influential person share your content results in 31.8% more social shares. Having three influencers share your content doubles the number of social shares. And having five influential people share your content almost quadruples the total number of social shares an article may receive. Let the Internet take it from there.
Once you’ve written a well-crafted, useful article, you can focus on optimizing it for reaching the masses. Included below are a handful of the many ways to achieve “maximum shareability”.
Content that evokes high-arousal emotions is more viral than content devoid of emotion. Recount a real life story or event that’s touching, amusing, or remarkable. Debunk a myth. Challenge a previously accepted notion. Analyze data with surprising results (“The problem with fast-loading websites”). Make people feel like they’re missing out on something big by passing up your article (“Common design mistakes you might be making”). Be relatable. Without becoming a click hole, make authentic content that people can’t help but click because of the value the information will add to their life–and the lives of those in their social network.
Surprise, fear, anxiety, awe, joy, anger, laughter, amusement, and empathy are all great ways to encourage users to hit the “share” button. However, positive, uplifting content seems to be the most effective. There are a lot of unhappy people out there in the world, and even the smallest bit of positivity can make it a better place. That’s why cute, funny, and happy articles get more shares.
Intertwining your content with a current trend or calendar event is an easy way to make it relevant. Valentine’s Day, the Super Bowl, Beyoncé’s Lemonade, you name it. Just make sure you’re not overtly taking advantage of a situation for your brand’s personal gain–people will see through that immediately, and it will do more harm than good.
Having at least one image in your post gives you more than twice the number of shares as those without. Images grab people’s attention more than text. Simple as that.
Be practically useful.
People like sharing things that they think will be helpful to their friends and family. Not only does sharing on social networks reinforce your online identity, but it also allows you to reinforce relationships with others. Providing useful content for people to share is the perfect way to encourage this.
Repost your content.
3 days after your post is first published, the number of shares drops at least 96% on all social networks. Depressing, right? Re-promoting your articles on a regular basis ensures that you’ll get the most out of the amazing, inspiring, life-changing content you do create.
WAIT. YOU’RE NOT DONE YET!
You’ve created some quality content that appeals to emotions, includes at least one strong image, and is timely and practically useful. Now, you must figure out the actions you want people to take after reading your article, and finish off with a section that plainly explains these steps. It seems obvious, but often people need to be told to do what you want in order for them to actually do it. That’s why your call to action is so important.
And with that, here’s our own call to action! Share this article if you find it helpful, and comment if you have additional insights to offer. Finally, contact us to learn more about how we can help your content reach a wider audience.
In Case You Missed It – Read part 1 of this blog “How do I get my content to go viral?” on our website!