The quick explanation of how to be viral

How do things go viral? It is hard to say, the internet is big (like really big) and there is are a lot of people competing for the little bit of time and attention that we all have. Almost everyone that has any presence online dreams that some of their content will go “viral”. Although this is not a bad dream some reality needs to be injected into it. Considering that we already discussed that the internet is a big place it is difficult in the least to make anything go viral, let alone be shared a couple of times.

There is no magic solution or formula for viral content. Even the meaning of viral will depend on what it is that you do online. Many people jump to the idea of virality meaning that millions of people share and watch your YouTube clip or share your article. This however is not applicable to every business or venture, you have to be realistic about the size of your audience and what it is that you are presenting. Think of virality in the terms of the people you want to reach. If you are a small business owner that paves driveways then the audience you may want to reach may be only in the few thousands.

There are overall trends that make some content more or less prone to become viral. We all know that an average piece of writing or content is not going to go viral. Sometimes things go viral because of how terrible they are but that is rarely the type of fame that people want. Keep in mind a few general rules when creating your content and something of yours just might go viral.

Know Your Audience

As mentioned above, virality is dependent on what you do. If you pave driveways in a smaller city, virality might look different than a viral campaign for Coca-Cola. Look at the number of people who may be looking for a service like yours within the city and around it. If there are 10,000 possible customers and you reach 20% of them instead of the usual 5% then high-fives are due all around. Consider your content viral, you reached 4X more audience than usual and gained more exposure. Keep it up! If you only reached the regular 5% again, don’t despair, you reached 5% and that’s not bad.

Think about the most basic questions when creating your material. Do they know about you? Do they know about your competitors? Are you trying to contact them? Are your campaigns targeted or general? What is it that is most important to your customer? These may sound like simple questions but they are the foundation of any good piece of popular material. Think about your audience and what they want. Don’t create what you think is great, it is not about you. Think about what your customer would like to see.

Be Different

old-spice-commercial-adBe different. Try something other than what is the norm, stand out from your competition. After all if you do the same thing as everyone else you can’t expect to stand out. There is no secret to being different, if you look at your product or campaign and go “I have seen that” then it is not new. Don’t get me wrong, being innovative is incredibly difficult. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel with every piece of content, but throw out something whacky and different sometimes, it just may take off.

Be Emotional

Unless you are in a field such as saving baby seals or nature photography it is often hard to evoke emotion. Going back to the concrete laying business example, it may be hard to evoke emotion about a well paved driveway that won’t crack. Very few people get excited about everyday things but that is a large part of creating content. According to some research such emotions as awe, anger, anxiety, fear, joy and surprise are key factors to creating viral content. One of the most appealing and common aspect of viral content is humor. To inject emotion into your content jump back to the Be Different aspect and try something different. The Dollar Shave Club was a successful viral campaign that made a mundane activity such as shaving humorous and joyful. Take example from others success and see if any elements can be infused into your content.

Keep It to the Point and Make It Long

Is this point a Catch-22? Not really. As mentioned most people today have a short attention span. We are bombarded with information from every possible angle and absorbing all of it is difficult. If you are creating a video or a visual piece of content, keep it to the point. If a person does not have a lot of time allow them to skim whatever it is that you created for the nuggets of information and let them move on. They can always come back later and admire your work in its full glory.

Make your written content longer. Long, in depth posts are usually more apt to go viral than short and to the point. If your content is not based on visuals you can expand and go in depth. After all somebody committed to reading it, they might as well get as much as they can from it. Just remember to highlight the most important points or at least make them easy to notice.


That’s right, fail. I fail, you fail, we all fail at some point. The fact is that the so called “virality guru’s” fail all the time. If making something viral does not work the 1st,2nd,34th time, don’t despair, just keep at it. Over time and with experience you and I will get there, and the reward will your own piece of internet history in the form of a nifty viral campaign.


How can anything go viral if you don’t share? Seriously, throw some Share, Like, Tweet, and other social media buttons on to your content. Otherwise how are people supposed to share with the world the greatness that you created?


Questions to Consider

  1. Are there are important aspects to viral content?
  2. Is viral content really that important or is consistent good content better?
  3. Is virality really that valuable, does it bring in more business?