The Secrets to Going Viral

Going viral: it’s the ultimate content strategy goal for every marketer, but seemingly impossible to achieve—or is it? Creating truly shareable content is no easy feat, and there’s no exact science behind it, but it is more likely to happen if you can remember why content gets shared in the first place. People share content that tugs on their heartstrings, makes them laugh, reminds them of a memory of their own, or simply just makes a statement. The bottom line is that people share things that they can relate to, not news that sounds like a sales pitch—so here are a few guidelines to creating more contagious content:


Everyone Loves a Happy Ending

When you scroll through your social media feeds, are you more likely to click on a link that looks like a feel-good story or an article that looks more controversial and upsetting? As it turns out, positive content tends to be far more viral than negative content. Jonah Berger, a professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, studied this concept and found that readers are more likely to share content if it has a happier theme. In a world that sometimes seems to have more bad news than good, it’s always uplifting to read an inspirational article, to read about an underdog’s success story, or to even just look at a funny meme. When you find something that makes you happy, you probably want to share that joy with your friends. If they find it to be something that makes them happy too, they’ll be more likely to share it with their own circle of friends—and the beautiful cycle of viral content begins.

Be the Expert

Let’s face it: no one really wants to share articles that lack credibility or knowledge. Well thought-out, smart articles are often shared because they make the sharer look smarter, and people love to be in-the-know. Articles that are high in social currency, or a sense of making readers feel like they have an insider’s edge, tend to be highly shared because people like to be the first to break important news and ideas. Share tips and lessons that you have learned by being an expert in your industry, or offer a different perspective on a hot topic to open up the floor for discussion and sharing.

Take a Trip Down Memory Lane

Again, people share what they’re thinking about—and they think about the things they can remember. Memory-inducing triggers in articles bring readers back to their own personal memories and evoke powerful emotional responses—amusement, surprise, interest, delight, happiness, anger, sadness, etc. This is partly why list-type posts such as those found on Buzzfeed tend to do so well, because there are usually at least a few key points that the reader can relate to. If an animal lover reads a list of the “Top 10 Cutest Baby Animals of 2014,” they’ll probably feel more inclined to share it because the article topic is something that they can personally relate to. Lists are also laid out in a format that feels more organized, easy to read, simple and useful, making the article more appealing and shareable.


Even if you check off every box on the viral content qualities list, it’s not a guarantee that you’ll strike gold every time. There’s no formula for tracking a human’s emotional response to viral content, but keeping these ideas in mind will certainly help keep you on the right track.

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