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5 Things That All Viral Videos and Articles Have in Common

Business practices for making viral content that gets shared

Even the best marketers can’t come up with the task of “making a viral video” because in the majority of cases, a viral video is made viral by the people who watch it. Every business who makes a Superbowl commercial has the intention of it being the funniest, most talked about commercial on Superbowl Sunday and for the following week, but the results are something we can’t control.

The same goes for making an article “go viral”. Social media has made viral marketing much easier, but you still can’t control how well an article (or any type of media) spreads. However the following are common properties of some of the most heavily circulated articles and videos on the web:

Get emotional.

Researchers at Penn’s Wharton School went through 3,000 New York Times articles and found that the articles most shared were ones with an emotional story behind them. Why do you think that people watch so much reality TV? People are drawn to drama.

Use comedy.

Some of the most heavily circulated articles and videos are funny. People like to laugh and people like to share things that entertain them. Why do you think we get so many chain emails? I bet if you tried hard enough, you could write a chain email that gets passed around amongst grandparents and web newbies like wildfire, so why not try the same thing through a comedic article or video?

Create controversy.

This is easy to do, all you need is an opinion. Get people worked up without painting yourself in a negative light. As a tactful writer you can offer a strong opinion without offending people, but while still getting people worked up enough to add their opinion. Jonah Peretti, CEO of BuzzFeed, one of the web’s biggest stream of viral content notes that “content is more viral if it helps people express their personality disorders.”

Make it easy to spread.

This is the way that many marketers go about it. They might provide an incentive for people that pass something along, whether it’s a contest or a video. This isn’t exactly the most organic way to do things, it’s worked for many marketers. My advice is to try this, but don’t try too hard or your great article or video won’t stand on its own.

Keep it personal.

People won’t want to share something that they don’t personally identify with, or that won’t shed them in a positive light when it’s shared. This is fine if they want to share their opposite position on the statement of the article or video but not something that might offend the people they’re sharing it with, like politics or religion.

Do you have any viral tips to share with our readers? Please leave them in the comments!

Posted in Audience Development Strategy

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2 thoughts on “5 Things That All Viral Videos and Articles Have in Common

  1. Great post! Reminds me of New York Times’ most emailed story of 2006 — “What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage” — the star of which was my former boss.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/25/fashion/25love.html

    Mrs. former boss aptly hit on all points. Thought I’d share as an example …

  2. Amanda says:

    Ha, thanks for sharing Sue! The link doesn’t seem to want to work, but if you Google “What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage” you can get the story. 🙂

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