We all know the basic definition - viral content is anything posted online that reaches intense popularity, often in the short term, but occasionally in the long-term too. It can make your brand a household name, and spur massive interest in your products - but how do you do it? How do you 'go viral' and get maximum performance out of your content efforts?
One of the most interesting elements of viral content is what actually does 'go viral'. Often it's the most random clips, images and stories, bringing sudden unexpected success, and even launching people's careers as a result.
And while it does tend to be relatively random, there are some things that you can do to increase your chances of achieving viral success. There's no definitive guide or process, and the odds are always stacked against you, but there are some key measures and considerations that are worth factoring into your content efforts to maximize your potential success.
1. Do something unique
If you want to go viral through an original concept, rather than piggybacking on the success of something else, you have to be unique. Which means doing something that no one has done before - or at least something they have done in a way that hasn't been seen.
2. Research popular questions
One of the best ways to come up with an article idea that has a solid viral potential is to answer popular niche questions.
Tools like Text Optimizer can help you find popular questions around any search query, and can be a good first step to creating something that spreads:
3. Keep things high quality
Yes, there are things out there that have gone viral because they were bad, but those unintentionally hit the sweet spot between "bad" and "so bad it's good". That isn't an easy feat, and you're better off making something to be proud of.
For example, now that every other blog publishes mediocre listicles of remote working tips and tools, you could consider more comprehensive lists and content that goes more in-depth - and essentially does it better than what's already ranking.
This can have major sharing potential, when done right.
4. Be controversial
It's still as true today as it ever was - controversy sells.
On the web, where everyone has an opinion, and is virtually frothing at the mouth to share it, you can really take advantage of this fact. And while you should try not to be outright offensive, you can stir up some debate which splits opinion and spurs subsequent conversation.
Is there a divisive topic in your niche that you could tackle?
5. Catch the trends early
When the original music video for Psy's hit 'Gangnam Style' was launched in 2012, some content creators were able to gain significant popularity for their own material on the back of it by publishing their own takes on the dances and scenes in the clip.
Being an early mover on trends like this can provide a significant advantage - the only problem being that the longer you wait, and the more spoofs out there, the less effective yours will be.
Get on the bandwagon with the first boarding and maximize your viral potential.
6. Don't try too hard
Online users are cynical, and increasingly resistant to trend-jacking for brand content means. They can smell desperation like a shark can smell blood in the water - if you try too hard, or your efforts will backfire.
There's no easy way to avoid this, but you do need to be aware of the cringe factor - which can have the opposite of the intended effect in your content efforts.
7. Manufacture Serendipity
Essentially, to go viral, you need to be lucky.
You need to be able to publish great content, at the right time, and connect with the right people to help spread the word.
So is there an actual way to create that "luck"? Yes - to an extent.
The term we use for this is "manufacturing serendipity".
Serendipity = a "happy accident" or "pleasant surprise"; a fortunate mistake. Specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful while not specifically searching for it [wiki/Serendipity]
So, how can you 'manufacture serendipity'? By being present, being active, and putting in the work to stay ahead.
Here are some quotes that relate to this ethos:
"The harder you work, the luckier you get"
"The best way to ensure that lucky things happen is to make sure a lot of things happen"
"You can't automate accidental discoveries, but you can manufacture the conditions in which such events are more likely to occur" [Sam Ruby]
"You greatly increase the number of opportunities you have for “getting lucky” by increasing the number of opportunities you give yourself to get lucky." [Mike Fishbein]
To rephrase - the more you do, the better your chances are to get lucky, and 'go viral'.
That means that viral marketing involves lots of experimenting, connecting to various people, seeing what others do, getting help, etc.
- To create viral content, you need to create lots of content and do lots of experiments
- To 'go viral', you need to be everywhere: Lots of connections, lots of channels, lots of social media platforms.
Again, there's no magic formula here, but by being present and active, you can maximize your opportunities for success.