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January 3, 2017

Crafting Viral Content: How to Create All Things Shareable

“Ultimately virility is all about helping others express their reluctantly shared feelings while doing so from a safe distance.”

― Ken Poirot, author of Go Viral!

Every person who creates content wants his or her work to spread to every crevasse the Internet has to offer; this is known as going “viral.” The problem is that a seemingly infinite number of articles, infographics, videos, social posts and other materials are uploaded to the Web each day. Creating great content that attracts a decent amount of attention is hard enough, making viral status seem unachievable.

While it is no easy task, going viral is a completely possible goal. Moreover, the average individual has access to all of the tools, inspiration and eyeballs needed to hold the Internet’s attention captive, if even for just a moment.

While there is no definitive solution for crafting materials that will echo throughout the digital net, there are core traits that point toward content going viral.

Kristin Tynski, senior vice-president of product development at Sapio, has published several studies on Harvard Business Review on what makes content go viral. Among other traits, Tynski lists engaging positive emotions, published in a quickly consumed format, and playing to broad or universal interests as a few of the indicators of viral content.

So how exactly do you go about producing such newsworthy material? Let’s take a look.

1. Craft Great Articles

This is really not an Earth-shattering revelation, but it is still as true today as it was five years ago.

Despite the massive influx of video content, the written word still holds a fond place in the hearts of the majority of consumers.

This does not mean, however, that you should start pumping out blogs like words are going to run out, crossing your fingers that one hits it big. The key here is to focus on the kinds of articles you are creating along with exhaustive research on your chosen topic.

Firstly, optimizing content for the SERPs (and therefore discoverability) means that long-form content is the name of the game. There are plenty of studies that show longer content performs more favorably in the SERPs, and individuals like Neil Patel are consistently developing lengthy pieces that generate thousands of shares.

For many readers, however, if content is presented in big blocks of words, it will appear drab and, therefore, undesirable. For this reason it is necessary to consider how to format content as well.

One of the best ways to garner clicks, get folks to read, and potentially share a piece comes through list articles, or “listicles.” Creating content like this will help to reel in more viewers and will help to bolster your chances of going viral.

2. Leverage Interaction

The days of the Internet as a passive experience are long over. Today, people are interacting more than ever before thanks to social media and other communal platforms. And people want their content to be interactive too.

Using interactive content not only helps to boost the amount of time people are on your site, but also increases the potential that they will check out and share some of your other works.

Interactive does not mean that you have to create some crazy immersive virtual reality experience. Content like quizzes, contests, games and even videos are prime examples of easy-to-create interactive content.

By making consumers a part of the experience you have created, you are inspiring them to pull others into the adventure through sharing. A simple personality quiz on Playbuzz racked up more than 2.5 million shares.

Video can be interactive, too. Just check out this NSFW YouTube video from Bic that has been seen more than 22 million times. The end of the video presents viewers with a choice of which direction the video will take, hence its interactive nature.

The point is that interactive content works in powerful fashion. Just remember to craft compelling headlines for it and A/B test those elements to establish to how it will perform best.

3. Borrow from Other Audiences

You don’t have to depend solely on your own following to get the word out about an awesome piece of content you have created. By following industry and social trends, you can capitalize on the influence of the latest craze to help generate the attention that you are looking for.

For example, this article about a “Walking Dead themed cruise” has been shared more than 586,000 times. This publication has no direct ties to the cruise or the culturally ubiquitous show, but both the publication and the cruise have cashed in on the audience of The Walking Dead.

You don’t have to turn your blog into a publication about a television show. This same concept is put to practice every single day through influencer marketing. By leveraging an influencer’s audience, you are effectively pulling more people into the fold who would have otherwise not found you.

Just a few influencers or a well-thought out way of benefiting from a cultural trend can turn your work into a viral phenom.

4. Have a Sense of Humor

In emotionally charged times (yes, now), sometimes people just want to laugh. More than that, people love to share feel-good, funny content. The lesson here is to not take yourself, or your brand, too seriously.

No matter if it is visual content or written, if it strikes a funny bone, people will likely share it. For instance, The New Yorker shared a short 2015 article that put people in stitches from laughter. After the ruckus had subsided, the article had been shared more than 2.3 million times; twice as many shares as any other article on the website.

Never underestimate the power of a good joke.

Viral content is often a byproduct of trial and error, diligence, and a bit of luck. In order to replicate the share count of the aforementioned materials, focus on conveying your message in a clear, yet emotionally-driven manner. And don’t give up when your next piece doesn’t grab national headlines; persistence is key.

How close have you come to viral status? Which form of content to you intend to leverage to get there next time?


Conscious online marketer, web executive, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney has been creating and fostering online innovations since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, influencer marketing, community management, lead generation, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, and accomplished life coach.  Learn more on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+.