What IS Viral Content, Anyway?

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We all know what happens when a business’s marketing team attempts to leverage meme culture. The cringe that almost inevitably results as they try to tap into a format they only vaguely understand. There are plenty of examples of this floating around the web.

These are failed attempts to grasp the holy grail of marketing. I’m speaking, of course, about viral content. That thing everybody wants, but nobody seems entirely sure how to create.

Defining Viral Content

Per Tech Target, when content goes viral, that means it’s being shared with a great deal of frequency across multiple websites and social channels. The content’s format doesn’t really matter that much. It can be anything from an image to a blog post to a video. 

The common thread is that it gets people talking. It inspires them to share with friends, colleagues, and family. It generates buzz. 

The thing is, content doesn’t always go viral for positive reasons. A recent Peloton ad, for instance, brought widespread derision to the luxury exercise brand. The negative press was only further exacerbated by the company’s more or less tone-deaf response, something which culminated in a massive loss for shareholders

We’ve established that you want to avoid creating content that enrages the Internet enough to go viral. What about if you want to create viral content that casts your brand in a positive light? Can you? 

How to Create Viral Content

Per marketing expert Neil Patel, all viral content has one thing in common. It’s worth sharing. There are many reasons why.

Maybe it’s incredibly interesting or informative. This could be a thought leadership piece that takes a complex topic and makes it understandable to laypeople. It could be a study that piques your audience’s attention, teaching them something about themselves that they didn’t know.

Maybe it’s entertaining. Look at Old Spice’s ads from a few years back. They’re still being widely-circulated to this day, simply because they’re so unique, quirky, and funny. 

Or maybe it simply makes your audience feel something. A strong emotion that drives them to immediately and passionately share with their circle. Generally, you should aim for positive emotions here; you don’t want your brand associated with negativity.

Beyond that, Patel advises focussing your content creation efforts in a few ways.

  • Back it up with research. Understand your audience and the type of content they most frequently share. Direct your own content creation efforts accordingly.
  • Know why you want to go viral. Are you looking for increased search traffic, or do you simply want to promote brand awareness? 
  • Stay consistent. Establish a regular content cadence. 
  • Make it useful. There should be some practical purpose to your content, whether that’s to entertain or inform.  
  • Leverage influencers. This one’s self-explanatory. If you can get someone with a ton of social clout to share something from your site, the chances that it’ll go viral are significantly higher.
  • Look at other viral content for inspiration. Ask yourself why and how that content went viral. 

Going Viral

Viral content is an incredibly powerful tool, but it’s also an inconsistent one The internet can be a volatile, fickle place.  You can’t guarantee a particular piece of content will go viral, even if you understand the mechanics of viral content. 

Instead, just focus on creating the best content possible. Be excellent to your audience. Endeavor to understand their needs, and provide them with the type of content they want to see.

Everything else should follow naturally from there. 

About the Author:

Daniel Page is the Director of Business Development for ASEOHosting, a leading provider in SEO hosting and multiple IP hosting. 

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