We’ve all seen content on the internet – be it an article, picture, video, or infographic – that was so prolific that we didn’t just see it once, but kept stumbling across it over and over. Not only that but our friends, family, and colleagues had seen it too. It may have even transcended the internet and become a real world talking point. If you happen to be a content marketer there’s a good chance that beyond being fascinated with the piece, you were probably also curious why so many people liked it and shared it. What was it that made it go viral and is that special something a quality you can capture in your own content? Let’s take a look at the top 10 reasons why viral content goes viral.
1) The Content Was Posted on a Tuesday
Research has consistently shown that Mondays and Tuesdays are the most active days on social media and that content promoted on those days is most likely to get shared or liked. Tuesday slightly edges out Monday as the optimum day. Thus, if a piece of content went viral there’s a good chance it picked up a lot of its early momentum by being posted on a Tuesday or Monday.
2) The Content Featured an Image and Had a Thumbnail
This one shouldn’t surprise anyone. People are more attracted to articles that have at least one or more images, and they are more likely to click on something if they can see a thumbnail image hinting at what it is about. Truly viral content almost always features an image and/or thumbnail.
3) The Content Was Shared by an Influencer
An “influencer” is a person on social media who is able to influence a large number of other people. It could be a celebrity, sports figure, politician, or other famous person, or in the context of an industry or sub-group a person who commands a lot of respect, prestige, and influence. Research indicates that content being shared by an influencer is re-shared at an exponential rate and has a much better chance of going viral.
4) The Content Had a High Trust Factor
The trust factor refers to how reputable the source of the content is deemed by people who will be potentially sharing the content. The higher the trust factor the more likely a piece is to be shared and ultimately go viral. A good way to increase the trust factor is for the author to include a byline as well as a brief bio at the bottom of the piece. Obviously certain sites and authors automatically command more trust than others.
5) The Content Was Long and Well Written
There is a common misconception that readers are unwilling or reluctant to read long pieces and are thus more likely to share shorter, easier to consume content. This isn’t entirely true. While it is true that content should be easy to read, with a good structure, sub-headings, and lists, there is actually a positive correlation between lengths and the amount of shares a piece receives. Content in the range of 1,000-2,000 words receives considerably more shares than content that is under 1,000 words.
6) The Company Kept Promoting It
The majority of shares and likes that a piece receives will typically occur during the first week that the piece is published. From there it drops off significantly. However, if the company or author continues to promote the content on social media this effect is greatly reduced. Thus, even older content, if high quality and timely, still has the potential to go viral.
7) The Content Made People Feel Good
Content that makes people laugh, is generally amusing, or that evokes other positive emotions such as joy and inspiration is considerably more likely to go viral than negative or neutral content. By contrast users are substantially less likely to share or like a piece that evokes anger, sadness, or pessimism.
8) The Content Said Something about the People Who Shared It
Along with positive content, people also like sharing content that they feel a connection to, that says something about them. Thus, this is why quizzes are so frequently re-shared. On the other end of the spectrum controversial content is also often more likely to be shared because the act of sharing it informs other people how the sharer feels about an important topic or issue.
9) The Content Was a List or Infographic
The most popular types of content, in terms of their potential for going viral, are lists and infographics. Infographics are popular because they allow the viewer to take in and process a great deal of information very quickly and efficiently. Similarly lists are popular because they are very easy to scan and read quickly, and the title of the piece usually gives a strong indication of what type of content the user can expect.
10) The List Had 10 Items
Numbered lists vary significantly from as few as 3 list items all the way up to 100 list items or more. However, by far the most popular number of list items, in terms of shareability, is 10. Possible reasons are that 10 is a nice round number and that 10 items feels long enough to get into the topic without being overwhelming or overly time consuming.
Ultimately there is both an art and a science to getting your content to go viral. Following the tips included here will go a long way toward making your content more likely to be shared; however, at the end of the day it still comes down to quality, the topic, and the audience.