7 Steps to Making Viral Content

If you are a writer or a web entrepreneur, there is nothing more exciting than having your content go viral.  While writing an article chock-full of information seems like it may be enough to make your content whirl wind around the Internet on Facebook, Digg, Twitter and other blogs, it is typically not enough.  While great content is a start, it is only the base of a viral piece of content. In this article I will go over a number of characteristics that most viral content tends to embody.

Amazing Content

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The base to every piece of viral content is and always will be amazing content.  Typically this content needs to fall into one of a few categories to go viral:

  • Draw extreme emotion from the reader
  • Extremely hilarious
  • Make the user think or say 'WOW
  • Amazing resource

If your article does not fall into one of these categories chances are it won't get passed around because it most likely isn't interesting enough to become viral.

To draw emotion from a user, you can create any type of content that makes people genuinely feel.  Anything from something terribly sad, to a success story of such great magnitude that it makes you feel like a better person just for reading it.  If you want to play off people's emotions, run it by a few sensitive people, and if you don't get a reaction, you probably aren't going to make this content travel the Internet at lightning speed.

Humor is a pretty obvious one.  While not everybody is funny, most everybody has a sense of humor.  In order to go viral on humor you are going to need some very original content.  Keep your camcorder and camera ready at all times and keep your eyes peeled for situations that could turn funny in a hurry.  Often a series of pictures or videos can go viral with next to no other content, so you might not need one thousand words to get your point across because as you know… sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

Next, we have the wow factor.  When I think of the 'Wow' factor I immediately think of Jackass the movie and some of the crazy stunts these people have performed.  Broken bones, fights, amazing goals in sports and things you just don't see every day fall into this category.  If you read an article and by the time you are finished you are thinking holy crap, I need to post this on Facebook, you've probably just read a piece of 'Wow' content.

Finally, we have resource articles.  These are pieces of content that are designed to be a resource on a specific type of content.  Examples of such an article would be 152 Ways to Save the Environment, or 15 Biggest Dinosaurs to Walk This Earth.  While these don't tend to get as viral as the other three, they tend to gather amazing links from related web sites.  The end results is awesome search engine rankings.  These articles tend to be much longer than your standard piece of viral content and often use citations to back up the information.


Make a list

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The next step to making a highly successful piece of viral content is to use the list format.  While this is not the only type of media that goes viral, if you are new to creating viral content you will quickly learn that people love to read lists.  Lists are easy to digest and if you build them from last to first, build anticipation of what the #1 list item might be.  

If you want to improve your chances of creating a successful resource top list, I would highly recommend making your list larger than a top 10 list.  


Use Images


No matter how good of a writer you are, nothing makes you look more amateur than having a gigantic blob of text with no images to break things up.  Not only do images give readers something to look at while reading, it also breaks your article up and makes everything much easier on the eyes.

The number one thing people do wrong when using images is they don't use uniform widths.  If the height of your images vary slightly, that isn't a big deal, but make sure that your images are all the same width so it doesn't look like a five year old formatted your article.  If you need to get images, check out morguefile, they have copyright free images you can use to spruce up your article.


Use Video

Example of a viral video

So you've got your list, you've got your images all uniform, but you want to take your content one step further.  If your topic is suitable, why not add a video for each point.  If you are creating the 20 best recipes for Valentines Day Cupcakes, try to find recipe videos for each of the recipes you have in your article. These extra videos  make your article that much more valuable because not only do they get to read how to make these cupcakes, they also get to see a picture and a step by step instructional video.   


Use Headings

Row Of HeadsCredit: http://www.braindeadaesthetic.com/Graphics/gallery/paintings/AAB_8970.jpg

Another big mistake I see when people are making lists, is they fail to use headings for each point.  Headings are another great way to break up your content and make it easier for the reader to digest the information. Not only that, search engines will pay attention to these headings and hopefully land you more search traffic for those keywords.


Network your Brains Out

People Networking

The final step to making viral content is often the most difficult, networking.  If your web site has minimal traffic, your viral article is only as viral as your most connected friend.  I highly suggest diving into the social media arena and trying to befriend a few highly successful people.  When you create something you are proud of, make sure to share it with them, if they find it as amazing as you think it is, they will most likely share it with their friends and colleagues.  If you don't socialize with people in the social media click, you are going to have a hard time getting something passed around.  

A great place to start is Twitter! Pick a couple of people that you think would be good to know and try to get them on instant messenger or Facebook.  Slowly get to know them and pick their brains for tips and tricks.  


Don't Solicit Votes

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I'm going to close this one out by telling you to go against your normal intuition to ask people to vote for your content.  Send the content to your peers and if they think it is good, they will share it on their own.  Soliciting votes is against the TOS of just about every social site out there, so to stay on the safe side, I would avoid it at all costs.  If your content is good enough, people will share it.

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