The Blueprint for Viral Content

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Remember the days when the only types of viral content were diseases? Those days are long gone. “Viral” is unquestionably the biggest buzzword around these days, and everyone wants a piece of the viral pie. From video directors to freelance article writers, everyone wants to create that one piece of content that takes a life of its own, that spreads like wildfire throughout the Internet.

Some viral content gets shared for no particular reason, but the vast majority of viral content goes viral for a reason. There are some common threads in all of the videos, articles, and listicles you’ve read over the past few years. Consider this your blueprint for a potential viral piece. It doesn’t guarantee that your next offering will take the world by storm, but it’ll help you understand how you can make your work more shareable and appealing to a wider audience.

  • Topic: Obviously, you’ll want to choose something that people care about. Some topics just lend themselves to sharing, such as cute cat pictures or weight loss stories. From a business perspective, try explaining something that people are interested in, but don’t quite understand. You can also try a piece about people coming together because of your product.
  • Medium: When you’re marketing viral content, you’re marketing to people with short attention spans. You have to make your point quickly and powerfully. If you have a lot to say, create a video and edit it to include the best parts. If you want to get facts across, use an infographic and make sure the biggest numbers pop out. For quick stories, short articles work best.
  • Focus: One of the best ways to get noticed is to put yourself into your content. Create a piece about something you believe in or poke fun at a serious topic on which you’d like to educate your audience. Your passion for your cause is what will determine whether or not your message goes viral.
  • Tone: The New Yorker states that people are as likely to share something that made them very angry as they are to share something that made them very happy. Your mood is immaterial as long as you tell a compelling story with passion and that you’re able to convince people to feel the same way.
  • Teaser: You don’t want people to feel like they know what your content is about simply by reading the subject. If they do, they won’t look at your work, nor will they share it. Create a subject and teaser that gets people intrigued, but doesn’t give too much away. Stay away from potentially misleading Upworthy-style headlines, which may do more harm than good.
  • Marketing: Although it’s statistically proven that asking people to share content does result in more shares, stay away from that mindset when marketing viral content. The best viral content doesn’t draw attention to the fact that it’s meant to go viral. It merely exists and gets shared on its own merit.

If all else fails, think about what you look for when you click on unknown material on social media. It has to matter to you, and it has to be in an easily digestible medium. It should convey passion without being too pushy and without giving you the whole story before the story begins. It also doesn’t hurt if others have shared the content with their friends.

Employ these principles with every piece of content you create. You might not get thousands of shares, but each individual piece will be far more popular. Over time, you’ll get the benefits of going viral while maintaining the credibility that comes from being an outstanding generator of content.

Bryan B is a freelancer writer living in Long Island, N.Y. He may be the only writer in the entire world that doesn’t drink coffee.


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