Business owners, media organizations and internet marketers alike use very similar web marketing tactics. Whether their strategy is based on social media promotion, organic search engine traffic or aggressive paid advertising campaigns, most of them would probably kill for a piece of their content going viral.
The question is: Is there a formula for writing viral content? Well, there is no formula, but content doesn’t go viral out of pure luck either (perhaps sometimes it does, if the stars align, but it would be foolish to rely on luck). More often than not, successful viral marketing campaigns are a product of diligent planning and excellent execution.
There isn’t a “one size fits all” type of strategy when it comes to creating and writing viral content, but some things are universal and will work regardless of what your niche, content or target demographic are. Below are some things to keep in mind while writing, if viral content is what you want to create.
Know Your Demographic
Most inexperienced marketers think going viral is simply about getting your content in front of as many people as possible. But, what’s the point of content going viral if the right people don’t see it? Your post about the best screwdrivers on the market might somehow reach a specific demographic, let’s say middle aged women (perhaps because it’s well-written or humorous or somehow relates to them), but that doesn’t mean they’ll purchase the screwdrivers from your e-store. In fact, they most probably won’t, so it's safe to conclude your content would do much better if it reached out to a mostly male audience.
Clearly, the point is getting your content in front of the right people. This means that knowing your audience, knowing your target demographic is key for having a successful viral marketing campaign. And that, in return, means you must laser-target your demographic to connect with it. Narrow it down as much as you possibly can: sex, country, age, interests, buying behavior – the more clearly you define your target demographic, the more you’ll be able to write content that they connect with. Learn who they are, what they want, what they need and what they respond to.
Evoke an Emotional Response
Knowing who you want your viral marketing campaign to target is very important, but in order for it to be effective you need to strike an emotional cord with your content, which means – you need to evoke an emotional response in your audience. Emotion compels people to take action. Ideally, you’d want that action to show in your audiences’ behavior or, at the very least, you’d want them to share the content, therefore generating a buzz.
Emotions inspire actions. A famous psychologist named Robert Plutchik (Plutchik was professor emeritus at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and adjunct professor at the University of South Florida) is famous for his “wheel of emotions” concept. Plutchik claims that eight primary emotions influence our behavior:
Integrating all or some of these emotions into your content will help you convey the message that you’re trying convey through your content in an effective manner.
Pay Attention to Timing
Get on the bandwagon. What’s the most recent buzzword within your industry? What’s trending on twitter, what’s reddit talking about? Social media can be a great source of information. Explore top social media pages of your industry and pay attention to their most popular posts. This is a great way to use the existing momentum within your industry and therefore your target demographic to make your content go viral. Clearly, this does not mean you should copy other peoples’ content word for word, but keep your ear to the ground for a while to find out what could work.
Being up to date on the latest events, when it comes to sports or pop culture for example, can also help. Find a way to spin the most recent online fad – adjust it to your content or products, find something that aligns with your brand and create a relatable piece of content. For example, it’s common knowledge that consumers show more confidence during holidays – whether we’re talking about Christmas or Valentine’s day. You can use the momentum of a holiday to launch a viral marketing campaign, after you craft a piece of content about your brand or product range that relates to a particular holiday or pop culture event.
Add Images to Your Content and Social Media Posts
Online marketers, sociologists and psychologists alike have been trying to decode the "buying brain" and even though there have been countless studies over the years, a more recent one, conducted by Buzzsumo is heavily related to viral marketing. After studying over 100 million blog posts (and the number of shares each blog post got) they’ve come to a single conclusion – there are many similarities between the content, but what stands out are the visuals. Check it out here.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Twitter and Facebook shares with one or more images get more shares than those without them and so do blog posts or website pages. Even if you’re a website owner or a copywriter, finding a decent, high quality image that relates to your content should be at the top of your priority list when crafting a piece of content that you’re hoping to go viral. Hiring a graphic designer or perhaps a cartoonist would be even better. The point is – make sure to include images in your content. Images make the content shareable.
Subheadings, Bullet Points and Lists
Google loves huge, detailed web pages, but most people don’t. In fact, most people won’t even think about reading a piece of content, let alone sharing it with their friends, unless it’s broken down into countless subheadings and sections. It goes without saying that the content should be concise, well-written and straight to the point, but with things we’ve mentioned in subheadings above in mind.
Bullet points and lists are another great tool every copywriter should utilize. People love reading lists (e.g. 10 Best Ways to…) and if you don’t want to clog your articles with numbers and lists, bullet points can also come in handy. The easier your content is to read, the greater the chances of it going viral are.