What do Grumpy Cat, Gangnam Style, and laptop-shooting dad Tommy Jordan have in common? You know about them. And the reason that you know about them is that they were featured in memes or videos that went viral.
Unlike computer viruses and viral pneumonia, viral content is something that you actually want to catch! Your blog or website might be humming along, attracting a fairly steady number of readers each day, until, bam! You post some type of original content that “goes viral.” Within a day or two, you’re getting record-high numbers of hits, and from then on, if you’re lucky, your daily traffic will be higher than it was before you were discovered, so to speak.
So, if creating viral content were as easy as it looks, everyone would be doing it. The fact is that no one can really predict ahead of time what will be forwarded, shared, posted to social media sites and talked about to the extent that they go viral. You can, however, stack the odds in your favor by understanding what factors make content so appealing that readers feel absolutely compelled to pass it along to others:
Viral content should be easy to read, understand and digest. Your readers have short attention spans. Even if an individual reader wants to take the time to focus on a masterpiece, it’s likely that his friends won’t, and the content will fail to go viral. You need to create content that is easy on the eyes. Infographics, charts, engaging videos and memes with bold fonts are good bets for creating viral content. If the content is comprised of text, be sure to break it up with plenty of white space, bullets and other formatting that makes it visually appealing.
Viral content should elicit an emotional response. Try to think positive: Positive emotional responses are more likely to be shared with friends, colleagues, family members and acquaintances than negative emotional responses. Why is Grumpy Cat so famous? Because people think she’s cute, because people like cats, because people like identifying with others who know that cats can have grumbly demeanors. If something tugs at your heartstrings or makes you laugh out loud (literally!), you might feel inclined to click the “share” button. Of course, you can create viral content that elicits a negative response, as well: Do you remember the video, Kony, 2012? Controversy aside, people felt angered by Ugandan warlord, Joseph Kony, and wanted to make a difference by sharing their indignation along with the video.
Viral content should make people feel good about sharing it. Why do you share items with your friends? To increase their knowledge, to make them laugh, maybe to make sure that they know that you’re on the same side of a social issue? Put yourself in your readers’ place: Is the content that you’re sharing practically begging them to share it with others, without asking it in words or text? If so, you just might have a virus on your hands!
The main point to remember is that creating viral content is not only incredibly difficult, but also a shot in the dark. You need to create a piece that is one-of-a-kind, but mainstream enough that people will want to forward it to their friends. If you can hit the nail on the head, then you just might find yourself with a greater readership than you had ever imagined.