Maybe you’ve heard the old saying, in order to win the lottery you first have to play. That’s about the extent to any advice someone can give you on how to win. Yes, there are superstitions out there and number theories, but in the end, the only way to guarantee you could win the lottery is by playing.
The same can be said for viral content. There is not guarantee your content will go viral but if you do these things, it could go viral. While I can’t make any guarantees about lightning striking in the viral content lottery, I can tell you if you create content your audience finds valuable or entertaining, you’re more likely for it to happen.
Here are a few suggestions on how to create content people love:
How to Create Content with the Best Chance of Going Viral
Again, I use the word chance. That’s all this is. Create great content, perhaps others will share it. Your best chance for viral is going to be an image or video. While it’s possible that a moving written story will be shared virally, it’s less likely to do so since images and video garner the largest numbers of shares on the Interwebs. Frankly, video is probably faster to produce nowadays than writing a coherent sentence.
Interview Your Customers
Product or service endorsements will rarely go viral, even in video form. What does go viral is something that will entertain your audience.
How can a customer video be entertaining?
Easy. Choose an entertaining subject. Most often that won’t be your business. Dr. Jerry Copeland of Pediatric Dentistry in Tampa, Florida often interviews his pint-size patients. Sometimes he uncovers shocking and comical discoveries. This post garnered 138 views in 3 hours.
If your business involves pets or kids, you have an unfair advantage because of the cuteness factor. However, all you need to do is provoke a reaction with your content. It doesn’t have to be cute. For instance, someone in pest control could take a video of a really scary creature. Hum the Jaws theme and post away.
Whoever you film – pests not included – make sure you respect their privacy and get written releases before recording.
Use Shocking Images
Weather, natural disasters, the biggest spider you’ve ever seen, these are all examples of images that immediately elicit a response. Sometimes the response is so great that it’s physical. Humane societies like to show pictures of dogs who have been rescued from dog fighting rings. These pics make you feel something instantaneously and the images often stay with you for a while.
Assuming we are no longer talking about shocking pictures but nice looking ones, tag people wherever applicable. (Do not tag famous or well-known people who aren’t in the post just to make them look at it. You are not the first one who thought of this and you’re not making friends this way.)
Tagging calls people’s attention to the picture and may cause them to share it if they like it as much as you think they will. If you choose poorly, they will remove the tag and hold it against you for a very long time.
To avoid this trouble altogether, you can ask your audience to share their own pictures with you. Provide a call-to-action or even a theme for the picture and ask your following to submit them to you or post them on your page.
Sometimes it’s morbid curiosity that causes clicks and shares. This morning the local ABC affiliate shared a picture of a 5-foot cottonmouth snake along with the caption, local woman finds snake in children’s play area. What happened next is amazing.
Maybe you also saw the picture of two middle-aged men in suits, holding hands with a caption that read something like, the bride’s father grabbed her stepfather and what happened next didn’t leave a dry eye in the house.
In both of those examples you can’t help but click. Did the snake eat the family dog? Did the mom whip it around her head and fling it off into the neighbor’s lawn?
Did the dad profess he had a secret crush on the stepdad all along or did he do something that defied how we envision dads and stepdads relating?
We have to know.
A Final Thought about Viral Content
All of your content should entertain, educate, or inspire. Most shares come out of the entertain and inspire categories. While your audience will dictate the details of what you share (you must always keep their interests in mind), generally you want to keep your content light for the most mass appeal.
People go on to social media for an escape not deep thinking. A Facebook stream is more akin to grocery store sensationalist magazines than it is a Paris salon (the literary and philosophical hangout, not the beauty parlor.) Keep this in mind when creating content. If you want to have weighty discussions, Medium is your place. If you want it to go viral, keep it simple and broadly appealing.
Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manger Blog.
She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.