5 Ways to Go Viral

Louise Armstrong
by Louise Armstrong on March 1, 2013 in Strategy
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"Going viral" could be considered the Holy Grail of the online world. When aViral marketing piece of content goes viral, it can receive thousands, millions or (in one specific case) over a billion views, and do so without spending a cent on advertising or promotion. It can turn the obscure into a household name, and be the launching point for a successful business or career.

It can also be very hard to accomplish. Viral content often seems to be a happy accident, and one that is supposedly outside the marketer's control. In one sense, that's true; you can't make people like and share your content. However, you can make content that is easy to share and like, and therefore increase your chances of it spreading like a virus.

Here are five things you can do to help your content go viral:
  1. Be visual. Images and videos are more likely to go viral than, say, a long block of text. Photos, infographics and other images are easy to share on social media and are more likely to be seen and "read." And YouTube videos tell a more compelling, entertaining or funny story than a photo, text or audio could on their own.
  2. Be original. Needless to say, there is a lot of content out there vying for attention. If people can get essentially the same content from a different source, your reach will be limited. But if your content is truly original and different from the mainstream, you could be the one that other people later try to copy. Think about how to showcase your own unique brand personality and create something new.
  3. Be timely. A piece of content is much more likely to catch on if it is relevant to what people are already thinking about or looking for. Something that deals with dating, for instance, would probably be most popular around Valentine's Day. Since people will be searching for content on that topic, and the keywords will be "trending," people will be more likely to see and share what you have to say. 
  4. Have a contest. This is one of the most direct ways to get people to share and promote your content. To work properly, the contest or promotion has to offer something worthwhile, and provide an incentive to spread the word about it. You want to come up with something that is creative and fun to take part in, so people won't feel they are being forced to promote your company.
  5. Provoke a reaction. In the end, something will only go viral if it prompts a strong reaction, such as laughter, or inspiration, or even anger. For that last one, of course, you probably don't want the anger to be directed at you. But if you know your audience, a little bit of controversy can sometimes be a good thing. 

You can't necessarily predict which of your online efforts will go viral. But if you consistently produce compelling content, you will get more value from people spreading the word online.

* Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Louise Armstrong

Louise Armstrong

Louise is a Senior Digital Strategist at Bonafide. A pop-culture addict with a passion for all things digital. She's Scottish by birth, but don't ask if she likes haggis...