The internet is HUGE. It’s easier than ever to get sucked into an “internet session” - checking your favourite sites, following a few links and before you know it ending up reading/watching/listening to something completely and utterly random. If you’ve stumbled one such completely and utterly random page, chances are it’s because it has gone viral.
So how do you get your own content - be it a video, blog post, podcast or whatever - to go viral and end up with thousands or even millions of hits overnight?
1. Make sure it’s good
Really good. No one wants to look at a page full of crap. No matter how interested you might be in the finer points of bean-bag manufacture, it’s unlikely that anyone else will be. Take a good, long hard look at your content (or get a friend to) and ask yourself: is it really any good?
Only the very best content goes viral. Check out the stumbleupon homepage and you’ll see for yourself. The pages with those all-elusive big numbers next to them are always genuinely brilliant. Without fail.
2. Humour works wonders
Upload a couple of original jokes to your site or write a humorous/satirical blog post and you’ll be laughing - pun definitely intended - when you check on your page views later on.
Making someone laugh puts them in a great mood and so your viewers are much more likely to hit that share button if your content is funny.
3. Add some emotion
Stir up some emotion in the hearts of your readers and they're bound to keep coming back for more. As long as it's original you can't go far wrong: jealousy, happiness, despair, unhappiness and shock; evoke one of these in your audience and they'll relate to your content on a far more intimate, personal level and hopefully share it with their friends!
4. Pictures are essential
Or at least something that isn’t just a solid wall of text. People simply don’t bother reading huge chunks of writing on the internet: that’ll be one instant click of the back button.
Videos, infographics, charts and pictures interspersed throughout your text (not just a token couple at the start) make it look so much more appealing to potential readers. After all, once someone has got through to your site you want to tempt them to look at your stuff properly and avoid them clicking that back button at all costs.
5. Tell people about it
How can you expect anyone to even get onto your page (let alone view your content) if it’s some low ranking site that nobody knows or cares - unfortunately - about.
Get connected to all those social networks that everyone’s raving about but you haven’t found the time for. Digg, Reddit, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Stumbleupon (et al.) are great places to build a following for your site. Avoid solely using a social network for blatant self-promotion, by posting other things and generally building up and interacting with your community, and it will reward you.
It will be slow at first. A new follower here, another share there. But a bit of effort and you’ll have connected with - and more importantly directed to you content - thousands of people. People who most likely love your site (if you've followed step 1).
6. Generate QR codes
You know, those funny squares filled with smaller black and white squares. If you've got a smartphone or know anyone who does, then you'll probably know that these are the real world equivalent of a link. The idea is you snap a picture of one on your phone and it takes you directly to the corresponding web page.
Write a real scorcher of a leaflet - make it absolutely perfect and a beauty to behold - with a short, intriguing description of you and your site and plenty of pictures. Slap a QR code somewhere prominent (but not overly so) and people are bound to follow it. If you hand out your leaflet to the right people that is. Don't hand out leaflets that are about about student life to pensioners at a bingo hall!
If you're serious about it, getting a piece(s) of your online content to go viral is actually fairly achievable. Don't be disheartened however when that new blog post that you spent ages on (and you think is really witty and should have the whole world bowing down to you) doesn't take off. As with most things in life, there's always a fairly hefty portion of it down to luck (what time of day you make a post for example).
It won't be easy, but the reward from the feeling of satisfaction you get when you finally make it viral?
Totally worth it.