The Magical Making of Viral Content (A Concise Review)

Essentials of Viral Content

Some posts – that can easily qualify as viral content – come back to attention more often than others for a variety of reasons, and a few I’m going to write about are remembered for sheer brilliance.

Evidently, the authors are all ‘writers’, they write well, have good command over the topic they’re writing on, and curiously, it doesn’t seem they wrote with the intention of making them viral content.

Let me give you some viral content examples for the benefit of your blog post ideas.

Thomas Oppong wrote on The Life-Changing Habit of Journaling, and goes on to explain why luminaries like Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, and among the contemporaries, Tim Ferriss and Michael Hyatt recommend it.

Thomas’ June 22, 2017 post has turned popular in a short time, and as of this writing it enjoys a robust 31,717 saves on Pocket.

Viral Content Example 1

My next example of viral content is a post by Wil Wheaton who confessed having had to take a long, hard, serious look at himself, and conclude that some things needed to change (for him) to fight stagnation in his life.

Wil’s 2-year old story is not a new topic, there has been and will be many more, but it’s clear that the readers resonated with what he had to say.

Also, it’s likely that by mentioning a figure – Seven – in the heading of the post, it may have contributed to turn it into viral content.

Viral Content Example-2

I’ll take one more example of viral content, and then list some more, so that you can study what make them viral, and if possible, emulate the uniqueness in them.

My third viral content example is a post about the legendary Stephen King. There is an element of conciseness in the title, again an example of a figure in use – Ten.

This article is a reproduction, however after reading it I agree it fulfills a purpose, which is to educate the readers about writing successfully.

Viral Content Example 3

A couple of more examples of viral content is given below. You may read them for academic interest.

Since they are popular, there ought to be reasons for that, and from that angle you can pursue them to dig out more.

1. Productivity 101: How to Use Personal Kanban to Visualize Your Work

Viral Content Example 4

2. Why Successful People Focus on the Bottom End of the Funnel

Viral Content Example 5

Are there any specificity about viral content?

Yes, there are.

Kelsey Libert, a Harvard Business Review author, lists 10 criterion of viral content –

  1. Evokes high arousal (usually meaning the content is surprising)
  2. Engages positive emotions
  3. Creates connection/empathy between content and content consumer
  4. Has a newsworthy hook
  5. Is easily understood
  6. Is a quickly consumed media format
  7. Is simple to share
  8. Generates value or works toward a goal when shared
  9. Doesn't reflect negatively on sharer
  10. Appeals to broad/universal interests or topic areas (food, pets, common life events, celebrities, etc.)

According to Noah Kagan, 10 is a magic number while writing list articles. He gives 9 more insights for creating viral contents as under after studying 100 million articles:

  1. Long-form content has less competition — and gets more shares on average.
  2. Use images on Facebook.
  3. Use images on Twitter.
  4. Inspire awe, laughter, or amusement.
  5. List posts and infographics are more likely to be shared.
  6. Make sure your article inspires trust.
  7. Reach out to influencers before you write your content... and after to get it shared.
  8. Write evergreen content and promote your articles regularly after it’s been published.
  9. Tuesday is the best day to publish and promote content.

Viral content thrives on solid research

Katherine Milkman and Jonah Berger studied 7,000 articles published by the New York Times, specifically those on the homepage that got the most views and shares on social networks, to gauge their virality.

Their research work is published in the paper, What Makes Online Content Viral?

Later they did a second study, and collectively they held 3 factors responsible to make content go viral and spread like wildfire across social networks.

  1. Evoking emotion
  2. Positive message
  3. Practically useful content

The last point is more definitive.

To take an example, if you’re writing a how-to post on say generating endless business names, it is always a good idea to demonstrate the steps to follow (practically useful) than only give the names of the tools.

In some parlance this is called walking the talk, or (to be more explicit) practicing not just preaching.

Summing up

Content marketers spend a lot of time studying if and why contents go viral, and the reason they do is that there is a continual seeking of unearthing clues that are unique and are relatively easily doable.

Bear in mind however, that every effort you make costs money and time, which many small businesses may not afford.

The moot point is, it is hard to guess if you’ve a viral content on hand.

So, it is better to focus on writing helpful contents for your readers, and writing them as frequently as possible.

And yes, stick to the time tested formulas that (almost) never let you run out of content ideas for blog.

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