Secrets to Going Viral – All You Need To Know
Getting a post to go viral is tough. It’s worth saying that before getting into the theory of making content go viral. So if you want a post to go viral, before anything else you need to know what triggers “virality” in the first place.
BuzzSumo analyzed 100 million posts to look for patterns in content that were shared more than any other. The most shared content had either some or all of these features:
- Invoked awe, laughter or amusement
- Appealed to people’s narcissistic side – made them look smart for sharing
- Lists or infographics
- Were from trusted sources
Another interesting study was undertaken by The New York Times where they interviewed 2,500 people to determine why they shared a story online. The main reasons may not surprise you, but are worth mentioning:
- To bring valuable and entertaining content to one another
- To define themselves to others
- To grow and nourish relationships
- For self-fulfillment (to feel more involved)
- To get the word out on causes they care about
So to summarise, if you are looking for a post to go viral, it must match at least one of the following:
Give – offers, or discounts
Advise – tips, helpful hints
Warn – potential dangers
Amuse – entertaining content
Inspire – images and quotes
Amaze – pictures and facts
Unite – be part of the tribe
You can see that much of these lists overlap. And there endeth the first lesson!
Understanding why posts go viral. Picking a suitable topic that you know will trigger at least one of the emotions above.
The hard you hit the triggers, the higher the chance of going viral.
But let me repeat myself… Viral posts are rare.
You can see it yourself, as most posts you encounter on social media getting minimal engagement and minimal shares.
This holds true everywhere, even sites that specialize in creating content that they hope will go viral. Even for sites as large as BuzzFeed, their viral posts are the outliers.
So what works?
I’m not going to include content that is simply paid for. If you’ve got the budget to boost your posts to a big enough audience, it obviously holds true that you will get more shares, and therefore increase your chance of going viral.
But what can the rest of us do? What will increase the chances of our posts going viral, or at the very least shared to more people that before?
The following then, are topics that posts which perform best without too much paid for traffic. Ideas that we can all use when creating posts for the most chance of being shared.
1. Lists rule
I had a look at the most shared content from BuzzFeed over the last 12 months (at the time of writing), and the top ten results included the following:
21 Parents Who Have Totally Given Up On Winning “Parent Of The Year”
22 Extremely Important Questions I Need Americans To Answer
18 Tweets For When Your Life Is A Mess And You’re Barely Holding It Together
37 Things White People Need To Stop Ruining In 2018
100 People Who Would Be Way Better Than Justin Timberlake At The Super Bowl
That’s half of their top ten posts that you could consider when viral, with the best performing list (the first above) being engaged with over 55,000 times.
Very little gets shared around as much as something that’s controversial. Again using BuzzFeed as a real example, their top two shared posts have headlines (and content to follow) that will get their target audiences interest. Whether they agree with the premise or not.
Remember, you may not be the target audience, bear than in mind as you read these headlines.
#1 People Have Decided Pennywise From “It” Is Gay And He’s Dating The Babadook
#2 Watch The Shocking Moment John McCain Killed The Republican Health Care Bill
3. Combine viral triggers
Don’t stop with one method, because it’s easy to combine them. Especially lists, for example, the following were particularly successful in terms of virality:
51 Of The Most Beautiful Sentences In Literature
The Only 12 Exercises You Need To Get Into Shape
The first of the above got over 9 million views and over 1 million shares. The second is a brilliant example of hitting multiple triggers. Vanity, laziness, greed to name just three.
As we’ll discuss in copywriting, the use of power words is brilliant.
4. Tap into what people care about
Let’s look at how the New York Times fared over the last 12 months, but looking at their most popular posts.
So what are their hot topics? Breastfeeding, environment (versus Trump), US mass shootings and storms (more environment).
Although there is a little more to the last one. It’s a story of two elderly people, married 75 years who get to see two storms hitting the US with the same names as them. On the face of it it’s not much of a story – but it got engaged with over 1.2million times.
Why? Perhaps as humans, we are just interested in other humans.
What else can we learn? Well, certainly more power words like an opposition, on the way out, and marvel.
Aren’t these clickbait?
Yes and no. And you need to be clear about this. A headline’s job is to get people to see it, read it and then engage. Either reading further or clicking on a call to action (link or button).
A good headline becomes clickbait with the article then viewed is not following on.
Instead of a good supporting article, it’s clearly full of adverts and the headline was only, literally, bait to be clicked on.
You must (must) use great headlines. More than anything they are the one thing you must get right, and we’ll go into how in the Copywriting section.
Get the headline wrong, and you can do what you want with the rest of your content!
5. Be funny
People are people, and people like a laugh.
A massive about of content is shared for no other reason than it entertained the viewer and they wanted others to see it.
The New Yorker’s humourous articles got twice as many engagements than it’s other posts, like the one on the previous page (which also demonstrates a brilliant headline).
As always think about your audience. You are not trying to make the whole world laugh, just those people that you want to engage with.
Self-deprecating humor is a bit of a secret sauce. We like to laugh at ourselves and our own industry. Avoid taking the mickey out of your audience, but feel free to do so for the niche they work in.
6. Spread the word with gamification
As you get engagement, you can encourage those taking part to share with others. There are a number of platforms that will help you do this as follows.
First, you! Tell people, don’t be shy. You will feel like you’re spamming the world, but for each recipient, they are only getting it once, so don’t worry.
As I show you some tools, remember the golden rules:
* Understand your audience
Only engaged users share. You need to know their triggers, what gets them interested. Use this knowledge to target your audience, and importantly, avoid targeting the wrong people.
* Be where your audience is
If they use Facebook, be there. LinkedIn? Be there. Instagram perhaps? Be there. Focus your attention on the platforms that your target audience hangs out on.
* Make sharing super easy
This comes with many platforms like Facebook and so on. But if you’re using email make the call to action (the share option) very clear, very obvious and easy to use.
7. Use referral programs
People like to benefit. So what can you give people who share? Perhaps an affiliate reward? Extended membership? What do you have, that you can use as an incentive? Asking to share without offering a reward in some way will make your life harder.
So what platforms exist that can boost your viral growth?
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