Make Your Content Go Viral

Rasmus Duerlund

Viral [ˈvī-rəl]

  • noun

An image, video, article, blogpost, podcast etc. circulated rapidly and widely from one Internet user to another.

In most cases we want people to talk about our brand, share our content and think of our brand as top of mind while climbing up the consideration ladder. In marketing, we talk about viral content as one of the success criteria’s for great content. So, how do you and your team foster content made for virality?

Jonah Berger and Katy Milkman (both professors at The University of Pennsylvania) did a research on the topic. They went through thousands of pieces of successful content. What they found was that:

  • Positive content arises more virality than negative does
  • Emotional content is more viral that content without emotions
  • Useful content resists. Being useful or helpful in some way trigger people’s like- or share button

Below you can see how likely your content is to go viral with certain emotions (few examples included):

Anger (34%)
Angry people will do a lot to attain justice. Trigging anger (anxiety and sadness) is exactly what Danish Refugee Help Organization did when they did a campaign right before Christmas 2018 encouraging people to buy a dress for the child bride or a feminine helmet for the child soldier. For the Danes this was a great way to provoke and attain their attention. Everyone understood the important message.

Awe (30%)
Awe is something remarkable. It can be a real-story event like the campaign The European Parliament did to make people vote in the election May 26, 2019. By adding many emotions too, this campaign went far in all of Europe and the election ended up being the most popular for many years.

Practical (=useful) (30%)
Do-It-yourself content which is helpful and useful takes a 30% percent of changes of going viral. Tasty is a perfect example of this. By sharing different, funny or beautiful recipes on Social Media will often get people to tag their friends. The approach can be used in almost any industry.

Positivity (13%)
Making people happy with your content is remarkable too and not as possible as you might think. Humour is very seldom the same across age, sex and culture.
Rema1000 did not even make a funny commercial, they also used their insights in the target group and showed them the life, which they – at the end of the day – were not interested in living. Simplicity at its finest – watch the commercial here .

Sadness (16%)
Nothing like bad news. Some people are reliant to the bad and sad stories, the ones that trigger our reptile brain in need of surviving bad things happening to someone else. Reminded of worst case scenarios which can happen to anyone. It’s the same reason why people loves to watch true crime series and listen to podcasts on topics like crime and sorrow.

Surprise (14%)
Do something unexpected. Most people love when brands do so!

And the last few – which cluster with the ones mentioned above.
Interest (25%)
Anxiety (21%)
Emotions (18%)

What else do we need to look for when making viral content?
Execution! How can we kick-start this piece of content that we have worked so hard to create and put a lot of thoughts into?

  • Use media spend and target persons with interest in your brand and people who are likely to like and share
  • Make a PR-plan. Who can you ask to share this specific piece of content? Wanted: Influential people with dedicated followers
  • Create a dialogue with people interacting with your content. They used time with you – show a little gratitude in return
  • When is the best time to share? Sprout Social did a blog post on this specific topic

Next up: Go for it! Trust your gut and all the thorough research and work you have done.