How To Go Viral: Everyone Dreams About It, But This Video Shows You How

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Going viral. The holy grail for internet marketers, brands, and personalities. Anyone who wants a boost in digital influence and appeal will get just that by creating contagious content that goes viral.

The benefits of going viral extend beyond the social media realm. Going viral can have practical benefits. Many creatives have seen their businesses grow as a result of well-executed contagious content. The opposite is true as well. Businesses and personalities that have gone viral for the wrong reasons have found it to have a profound impact on their marketability and social media cachet.

So what makes content go viral? The answer: it's complicated. Experts researching viral content have found a range of factors in play. There is an ocean of content shared every day, and going viral means your content has to bubble to the very top through a combination of luck and sound strategy. No one can predict which content will go viral, but by studying viral content of the past we can identify some common denominators.

Creating Contagious Content

If you want to create contagious content there are a two big factors to think about: emotional appeal and format. If you approach content intentionally, checking it for emotional appeal and form fitness, you'll help your chances of becoming a trending topic.

In the emotion department, don't be timid, shoot for strong emotional reactions. A good rule of thumb is: the more emotion a piece of content evokes, the more viral potential it has.

In the positive emotion department shoot for emotions like surprise, awe, happiness, delight, and humor. It isn't necessary to limit your appeal to positive emotions. Negative emotions also have strong potential for boosting share count. When the situation calls for content that will pull on negative emotional strings think of anger, frustration, doubt, sadness, and embarrassment. When honing your content with emotion in mind remember that users will share content that they feel reflects positively on them.

The format of your content is also critical because, on average, users only spend enough time at each web page to read 28% of the page contents. So while long-form written content does go viral from time to time, pictures and short video clips have a much better chance of catching fire. Make sure to mix written content with visual content such as pictures and relevant videos. Put your best visual content in the most prominent locations to give it the best chance of earning a like or a share.

If you want to dive deeper on this topic check out "Contagious: Why Things Catch On" by Jonah Berger. As one of the foremost experts on viral content Jonah has identified six key drivers that shape the contagious potential of content. The drivers include:

  • Social currency
  • Triggers
  • Emotion
  • Public visibility
  • Practical value
  • Storytelling

When content goes viral these are consistently the drivers that are at work. If you want to make your content more contagious think about these drivers, and craft your content accordingly. In doing so you will move one step closer to that unpredictable phenomenon: going viral.

Related Resources:

5 Reasons Your Content isn't Going Viral - See our illustrated guide that is loaded with actionable tips to increase exposure and social sharing of your website's content.

Secrets of Viral Videos - There is no secret formula to making a video spread like wildfire, but there are ways you can market your video to give it what it needs to go viral.

Lessons in Social Media Marketing - How do non-sexy brands successfully market their content on social media?

Jon Penland

About Jon Penland

Jon has worked in many capacities in the high tech world, including engineering and development. He's written many articles for, including expert reviews of web hosts, programming resource guides, and even front-end development tutorials. He lives in Georgia with his wife and five children.


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