Thanks to social media, the visibility of content can be multiplied tenfold with a single click of the ‘share’ button. A viral post means some lucky marketer’s content is shared in quick succession, creating a snowball effect of exposure.
Facebook and Twitter have acknowledged the emergence of viral content by developing a ‘trending’ column on their page. What is trending – and it rotates daily – is based on the amount of social media users discussing and sharing a certain topic or piece of content.
Having something go viral can have a dramatic effect on a business or individual. Traffic to your website will increase exponentially and brand exposure will likely be at its highest, ever.
Unfortunately, becoming viral is not something you can simply do like flicking a light switch. However, there are recurring characteristics of viral content that suggest that for something to go viral, it should have the following features:
Imagine you’re walking through your local park. What are you more likely to tell your friends about: the jogger in the blue hoody, or the man on a unicycle sporting a blue Mohican who’s singing Celtic ballads? The reason the one-wheeler gets your attention is because it’s not what you anticipated when you went for your stroll in the park.
Similarly, if you recognise your market and its current characteristics, insert something that is totally unprecedented. It doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel, but it does need to stir up discussion due to its presence.
Don’t be neutral or too safe
Everything that captures people’s attention has the potential to polarise opinion too. The likelihood of a share button click is vastly improved when the content elicits an emotional response in the reader. Emotions don’t flare up when you’re writing something that’s desperately trying to please everyone. Think of it this way – if your content is strongly assertive to the point of being controversial, the people who agree will share it in empathy and the people who hate it will share it and comment on it with critique. Either way, that share button is being clicked. Debate is always healthy and it’s the more polarised content that stimulates people to start one.
Whilst some online content becomes viral within hours of being posted, other stuff doesn’t start snowballing for weeks, even months later. The latter is much more likely, but to keep the door open for it to happen, it’s key that you keep the dust off it! Replying to comments and facilitating discussion will provide the impetus for later growth. The more dialogue that surrounds the content, the more willing people will be to join the discussion and share.
It might seem obvious, but it’s incredibly easy for content to slip through the cracks of social media. A single tweet will get buried in less than a few hours, and Facebook posts might miss your key demographic by a few hours. Schedule posts regularly, but at intervals that guarantee people aren’t feeling spammed.
Also ensure there are clear, easy-to-use share buttons on the webpage that hosts your content – without making them too intrusive – and that all the key social networks are listed.
Finally, an outreach campaign that gets your content featured on influential websites or shared by tastemakers on social media is another way to catalyse rapid circulation.
Something becoming viral ultimately hinges on the internet population. The behaviour of those online denizens is measurable however (to a degree), and because of this it’s possible to tailor your marketing schemes to maximise those share clicks. Do something different, take a risk, be engaging with it, and see how far it goes.