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August 11, 2015

The New Entrepreneur’s Guide to Viral Content Creation

Photo Credit: Stuart Miles via freedigitalphotos.net

The aim of every content creator in the world is to attain that holy grail of Internet fame, to go viral. Viral content can do so much for the company that creates it, skyrocketing their popularity literally overnight. Viral content is an Internet phenomenon and one that will continue for as long as we use the Internet socially. It capitalizes on one or more factors that make for content that evokes feelings and that the audience can identify with. For us to properly grasp viral content creation, we must first explore what makes content viral.

What Is Viral Content?

Viral content is content that spreads from user to user through contact (in this case sharing through social media) and encourages it to be shared to the next user and so on. The spread of such content is referred to as “viral,” because it mimics the behavior of a virus, infecting user after user across the population and utilizing them as vectors to infect even more of the population. It is here the comparisons between viruses and content stop. For content to spread virally, it must be good content. It must give the user something of value, quite the contrary to what a virus does.

What Makes for Great Viral Content

There have been many debates about what makes viral content and how a company or individual can attempt to artificially generate content that will go viral. To date, all we have are what constitutes good content. When these are applied it still depends to a large extent on the demographic that sees the content and shares it. For content to go viral the content should:

  1. Evoke Strong Emotions: While positive emotions may tend to be shared more often, negative emotions such as fear and anger are just as powerful motivators for encouraging sharing. Evoking emotions can be a tricky business in some forms of content. It can backfire horribly if not done right. Evoking strong emotions is only the first thing that a piece of content has to do to ensure its vitality, but it may be the most important factor in guaranteeing the area of its spread and its longevity.
  2. Be Relatable: Relatable content usually generates far more shares than non-relatable content. For a user to truly identify with a message, he or she must have a personal stake in it and be able to identify with one or more of the characters in the story. This is where in-depth storytelling comes in. By placing the audience in the place of one of the members of the story you make it relatable, investing them with the story.

Good Content is most likely to Go Viral

Combining these two factors with a strong but simple call to action (such as a share, a like or an off-site visit to your own webpage) gives you a means by which you can benefit from the content going viral. These are just guidelines to creating content that may go viral. The actual performance will vary with each piece of content. By consistently generating good content it’s just a matter of playing the numbers game until one piece succeeds in breaking through.


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Dan Steiner is a technology entrepreneur, freelance writer, and content marketer. He currently runs Avila Web Firm, a California-based web design and internet marketing agency. His work has been featured by a number of media outlets, including Forbes, Business.com, Yahoo, HuffingtonPost, and a number of others.

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