Viral videos…we love to watch them and share them. And a good viral infographic? Who doesn’t love to learn about a highly complicated subject through the artful use of clear, concise metrics?
Sometimes, however, some folks get the wrong idea that any video content can be made to “go viral”. And often times, they are led to believe that this could be true because some social media huckster on Fiverr said they would drive “thousands of views to your content” for the low, low price of $5.
Sorry to burst the bubble, but social media strategists (no matter how good they are) don’t have a magic “Go Viral” button that makes a video, infographic, pin, or other piece of content just take off. And those thousands of visitors that you paid $5 for?
Bots. Bots from China. Bots from Russia. Bots, bots, bots.
…and I’m pretty sure that none of those bots are going to buy your product.
Creating Viral Content Is Both An Art AND A Science
While there are definitely certain types of content that are more likely to be shared rapidly, marketers and content creators have to really work hard to understand what works for their audience, when the right time to share is, and what channels are more likely than others to spark that sharing frenzy.
According to BuzzSumo, who did a great job analyzing more than a million articles, there are a few critical elements that any blogger hoping to have their content shared virally should take into account.
I’ll let you read through the full article to see their insights, but a couple nuggets that I completely agree with are:
Above all, your content should be good. It should be informative, entertaining, valuable, and engaging. Spend time on your content. Shape it, craft it, improve on it, develop it. Find a level of quality that others will want to share.
Any piece of viral content should make us laugh, cry, yell, rant, scream, shout, or just sit back and go….wow. If it doesn’t spark an emotion of some sort, it may be the deepest, most informative piece of content on the planet and it likely won’t get re-shared on a global scale.
Video, pretty photos, well crafted infographics. Without them, forget it. You may be the master of the keyboard and an amazing storyteller, but the Web has evolved to one of pretty pictures and compelling videos. Tell your story, but compliment it with photos.
Or better yet, find a way to tell your story in video.
Unless you are in influencer yourself, you’re going to need the help from an influencer to make your content go viral. Learn how to engage with influencers. Mention them in your content and then let them know you appreciate the contribution.Getting a piece of content to go viral is a team effort. Find influencers who might find your content valuable and engage them in a way that they might share it. Click To Tweet
Who knows, maybe they will be the spark to your viral fire when they share your content with their audience.
If you’re interested in the digested version of the OK Dork research, BuzzSumo and Elevator created a sharp infographic that summarizes some of the key components.
But Is Going Viral Really The Right Goal For My Content?
I get asked to make things “go viral” quite often. Everyone wants to enjoy that feeling of having something shared like crazy. Because…well…it makes us feel important, right?
The questions I like to ask before we start to develop content, though, tend to open up a great dialog that often changes the focus away from viral content and more toward valuable content.Everyone wants their content to go viral, but do you have a *real* business reason for wanting the content to be shared? Click To Tweet
Some of these questions include:
1) What are the goals for your content?
If you’re trying to attract customers or make sales, viral content might not necessarily be your goal. Sure, if you are launching a brand new product, the awareness may help drive new sales. If you are an established brand with an established product line, a piece of viral content could attract eyeballs, generate a bunch of laughs, and then drive zero sales.
So, before you start, know what you expect to accomplish.
2) Are you prepared for something to go viral?
If thousands of people start hammering your Web site to view your content, can your servers or host handle it? There is little worse than generating buzz, only to have your visitors encounter a 503 – Service Unavailable error when trying to view the content.
Trying to go viral on a GoDaddy budget hosting account is a recipe for disaster.
3) Who will help you raise awareness?
There is no “build it and they will come” when it comes to viral content. When you count all the social media messages, blogs, and videos, BILLIONS of pieces of content are published every day. What is going to make your piece of content different? Who is going to toot your horn in a way that others are going to pay attention?
4) Do you have the budget and resources to create the content?
How much money do you think it took Oreo to create their famous “lights out” post when the lights went out at the Superbowl? Not that much. It’s a pretty simple graphic that took a few minutes to build and tweet, but was retweeted more than 14K times.
Power out? No problem. pic.twitter.com/dnQ7pOgC
— Oreo Cookie (@Oreo) February 4, 2013
Inexpensive, right? Wrong.
In order to be prepared for that moment in time, they had to develop complex internal approval processes, they had to have people monitoring social media, they had to have people working on the weekend to identify and exploit opportunities.
It costs money for people to be prepared to engage, so are you prepared to set aside a budget to be prepared, just in case a viral opportunity arises?
5) Are you prepared for something to go wrong?
The final, and most uncomfortable part of the conversation relates to backlash. I always ask my clients whether they are prepared for something to go wrong with the campaign?
What if a popular YouTuber makes fun of it and his/her content goes viral, instead? What if a segment of our audience takes offense to the message and encourages a boycott of the products?
Trust me, people aren’t as predictable as many marketers would like us to believe.
Shit happens…and playing with viral content can sometimes cause it to splatter.Would you be prepared if your viral content sparked a massive backlash? Click To Tweet
Maybe Quality Content Should Be More Important That Viral Content
Rather than trying to make a piece of content go viral, focus on developing content that helps your audience. As an example, the most popular piece of content on this blog is my article explaining how to get rid of the stupid Facebook Messenger icon that displays when you don’t have a new message.
This one article usually drives about 50% of my monthly traffic to my blog.
Useful? You betcha!
Rather than trying to make something that I thought would go viral, I just worked through a problem that I was experiencing myself and identified ways to solve it. My readers jumped in and suggested other options, which I tested and then added to the post, and voila! a blog post that drives amazing amounts of traffic!
So rather than spending a ton of time focusing on the outcome of your content (e.g. making viral videos), think more about the purpose of your content….like helping your audience out.
Find ways to write content, create images, and shoot videos that offer value to your viewers.
It might be value in the form of information, instruction, or humor but be sure it’s something that your audience will not only want to view, but share with others.
This particular social media comic is dedicated to my good friend, Laura Nguyen (@lauran546). I know how much she loves it when someone asks her to make something “go viral”. Cheers, Laura! 🙂
Have a tip about viral content that others might benefit from? Have an experience creating and promoting a viral piece of content? Feel free to share it in a comment!