10 factors that contribute to viral content success

October 8, 2019

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Can we make that go viral?” Some companies and practitioners in the content space claim they have a secret sauce. But is there really a single approach that can unlock the door to millions of views, comments, shares, and mainstream publicity?

how to make content go viral

What is viral content?
Let’s start with the basics. Viral content is content that spreads rapidly online through social and digital sharing. While there are varying degrees of virality, the most notable content is that which becomes globally recognized, transcending social and digital media, and moving into late night television, radio, coffee shops, family dinner discussions, and water-cooler chats.

What makes content viral?
While there is no magic potion, one could surmise that the more you can tailor your content strategy to include the below factors, the more likely that it will spark conversation both online and off.

  • Value: Does your content provide amazing value? Is it a nifty trick, hack, tip, piece of knowledge or wisdom? Does your content help people?
  • Relatability: Does your audience think “I know how this feels,” or “I’ve been there before. I can relate to this content and I’m sure my friends, family and colleagues can too”?
  • Emotional: Does it tug at the heart strings? Is it so shocking or unbelievable that your audience feels compelled to share it with their friends, family and colleagues?
  • Relevancy: Does it tap into a current cultural trend, topical news story or something that’s been steadily relevant for weeks?
  • Timely: How quickly can the content be produced and distributed into the market? Think about the Oreo dunk in the dark moment; that wouldn’t have worked if it was posted several hours later. Does your content tie into an in-the-minute moment?
  • Quality: Is it glossy, beautiful and pleasing to the eye? Some content is shareable because of the sheer production value and effort that went into producing it.
  • Shareability: is the content easy to share? Are there associated hashtags or a call-to-action? Can the audience create their own unique responses to the content? Will the audience look smart if they share it?
  • Paid amplification: kick-starting the content journey with a boost from paid media can get the content into the hands of the intended target audience, fast.
  • Creative: we know that lists e.g. 10 factors that contribute to viral content success (see what I did there?), and quizzes tend to be very shareable, so too are infographics and video. So, when thinking about creating content, think about easy formats your audience can digest quickly.
  • Influencers: having someone notable or an expert on the topic co-create and share content can create trust with your audience and make them more likely to share.

So now we know a few elements that contribute to the likelihood of a post going viral. But please still be wary of those companies and practitioners who tell you they can guarantee the virality of a piece of content. There is no known algorithm that can lead to such success, and with social media algorithms changing daily the game can change at the click of a mouse. You can always spend billions on advertising across all major mediums simultaneously—but that wouldn’t really be viral, right?

What’s in your control?

  • Create high-quality content that provides value, relevancy and relatability to your target audience.
  • Create and distribute content in a timely manner and amplify with paid.
  • Focus on creating content that surpasses all previous benchmarks and KPIs.
  • Understand that not all content is going to appeal to everyone, but if it’s helped get you closer to your business objectives, it’s been worth it.
  • So, while we all want that viral hit, creating and consistently delivering content that reaches your target and drives business results time and time again is more likely to keep your customers, and your company leadership, happy.

Jarrad Blyth is a Senior Manager, Digital in the Toronto, Canada office. Jarrad specializes in social and digital media strategy, but has a particular passion for all things analytics, measurement and insights.