How To Viral On Social Media

One of the best ways to generate buzz about your brand is to create content that goes viral. But how do you make that happen?
Fortunately, you can create viral content by following a prescribed set of best practices. The formula is part art, part science, and a whole lot of promotion.

First, Understand That Virality Is Relative

The first question to answer is: how many people need to share your content before it’s considered “viral”? It depends.

If you’re in a small industry, even just a few hundred shares can make a huge impact. Our Ignite Visibility blog posts tend to get 50-200 shares on average. Viral articles get 10x or 20x more shares than that.

So we’d consider a post viral if it got about 1,500 shares. That’s perfectly fine for us because we’re a B2B digital marketing company with a relatively small audience. If we were running a fashion blog, though, we’d probably need tens of thousands of shares before we classified an article as viral. And if we were running a site like Buzzfeed, we’d need to see hundreds of thousands of shares.

Increase Your Chance of Going Viral

Next, let’s look at how to increase your chance of going viral. This formula explains virality

(Virality Level) x (Number of People Who See the Content) = Number of Shares

As you can see, there are two components to the product on the left side of the equation:

Virality Level

Number of People Who See the Content So right off the bat, you have two options when it comes to increasing your chances of going viral. You can generate content with a high virality level or you can increase the number of people who see the content.

In either case, you’re increasing your chances of going viral. I’ll use the next few sections to cover triggers that help content catch on.

Understand Your Audience

Want to attract some eyes to your content? Trigger an emotional response. To do that, though, you must first understand your audience. How can you do that? Find out what kinds of content they’re already sharing. Chances are pretty good that if they’re sharing the same kind of content over and over again, they’ll likely share that type of content if you post it on your blog.

Use Long-Form Content

According to BuzzSumo, long-form content gets more shares. Why? Probably because people appreciate exhaustive, detailed information.

Long-form content is usually somewhere between 3,000 and 10,000 words in length. That might seem like a lot of writing, but it’s a small price to pay if the article spreads like wildfire all over cyberspace.

Pro-tip: make sure you break up your long-form content with subheaders. When you do that, you make your content scannable, so visitors pressed for time can go straight to the part of the article that contains the info they’re looking for.

Add Some Images

Images within articles are like windows. They shed some light on the subject and let in a little fresh air. If you put nothing but text in your content, you risk putting your audience to sleep. Add some images that illustrate the points you’re trying to make. You can even use images to put some humor into your content. It’s easy to do that by sprinkling reaction GIFs throughout the article.

Get Emotional

Research has found a link between viral content and the VAD model of emotion. If you’re unfamiliar with the VAD model, here’s the breakdown:

  • Valence – The positive or negative aspect of the emotion. Fear and anger have negative valence while happiness has positive valence.
  • Arousal – A measurement from relaxation to excitement. Sadness has low arousal (closer to relaxation) while fear has high arousal (closer to excitement).
  • Dominance – A measurement from submission to control. Fear is a low-dominance emotion (closer to submission) while inspiration is a high-dominance emotion (closer to control).

People who’ve studied the science behind viral content found that articles with high-arousal or low-dominance emotions tended to generate the most comments. However, people are more likely to share content on social media when it generates high-dominance emotions.

Specifically, here’s the type of content that really resonates:

  • Cute stuff – Babies, adorable animal images, and of course cats.
  • Humor – Who doesn’t love a good laugh?
  • Practical advice – Did you catch the viral video about how to wrap Christmas presents even if you don’t have enough wrapping paper? It went viral because it was so practical.
  • Inspiring content – It’s awesome to see videos of humans helping each other, stories of everyday heroes, or info about new tech gadgets.
  • Rage-inducing content – People often share stuff they don’t like with a sad or angry emoji.
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