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How to make Viral Content

June 5, 2016

It’s the dream of many organisations and individuals… Making a piece of content that goes viral. Unfortunately, it can be a bit of a nightmare working out exactly how to do it. There’s no exact science to making viral content, or else everybody would be doing it, but there are a few tricks that can help you get there.

Here, we show you how to make content that goes viral.

Step One – Audience

Before you can make a piece of viral content, you must first decide on your desired audience. Behaviours, ages, and all other things that you’d normally look at when creating a marketing strategy don’t apply here though. You’re trying to create a piece of viral content, so your audience needs to be as broad as possible.

If you have a very specific type of audience in mind, you don’t need viral marketing. You can continue your normal content marketing strategy instead.

So, if we’re not looking at audience types, how else can we choose who we’re going to target? The key to creating a piece of viral marketing is to choose which social media platform you’re going to target instead. Viral marketing is impossible without social media, and each platform has different audiences. This means that different types of content work well on different platforms. What works well on Facebook won’t necessarily work well on Twitter, and vice versa.

For example, on Facebook, some of the most frequently shared things include lists about relationships, videos about food, and animal videos. On Twitter, in order to go viral, you need to churn out funny jokes. Tumblr sees posts about social issues receiving a lot of attention, whilst Instagram takes the old marketing proverb “sex sells” and runs with it.

Once you’ve decided where you’re going to share your content, you can now start crafting it.

Step Two – Research

Now that you know who you’re targeting, it’s time to do some research. Like we said above, there’s no exact science to creating viral content, so you need to look at works well on your chosen platform.

Take a look at all the content that receives attention on your chosen platform over a period of time. The longer you research, the better idea you’ll get of what makes each piece of content work. Take notes on each viral marketing campaign you see, paying particular attention to the following questions.

  • Who? – Who is this piece of content aimed at? Who is sharing it? Who features in the content?
  • What? – What is this viral content about? What is the purpose of it? What are people saying about it? What kind of reactions does it evoke? What makes it shareable? What type of content is it (quiz, video, blog, etc.)?
  • When? – When was the content shared? When are people talking about it (and for how long?)?
  • Why? – Why do people share this content? Why does it exist? Why did it go viral?
  • How? – How was the content shared (paid vs organic)? How do they encourage people to share? How is the content presented?

Whilst it might sound like a bit of a cop out for us to tell you to go do your own research, it’s simply because of what we’ve said before. There is no guaranteed strategy for viral marketing. Only by watching and learning from others can you get an actual idea of what works. It also allows you to weigh up the types of content against your own capabilities and budget.

Step Three – Create & Share

Once you’ve done your research, create your content and start sharing. This is where you need to decide whether to put some money behind your content or not.

If it’s on Facebook, we’d definitely recommend spending some money. Unfortunately, it is now incredibly hard to reach people organically. Anybody who is anybody on Facebook is spending money.

Also, you need to think about how your content is presented. By that, we mean what title you’re going to choose. In order to achieve true viral status, your content should have a title following at least one of the rules below.

  • Lists – People love lists. It’s a fact. In the modern age, attention spans are dwindling, as we have all the information we could possibly need at our fingertips. Because of this, lists are well known “gold” within viral marketing. Example: 10 Celebrity Couples from the 90’s
  • Presumptive – A great way to appeal to people is to add a presumptive within the title, basically telling the audience that they won’t believe your content. This is used a lot, and normally comes along with some completely believable content. Example: 10 Celebrity Couples you won’t BELIEVE dated in the 90’s
  • Appeal – Appeal to the audience’s emotions (a well known tactic in viral marketing). Example: So SAD! These Celebrity Couples BROKE UP!

Of course, these are extreme examples, but they’re there to illustrate the sort of thing you should be aiming for.

Step Four – Try Again

Chances are, your first piece of content won’t go viral. The organisations that achieve viral success regularly often produce several pieces of content a day, and only a percentage of that actually makes it to viral stardom.

Before you run straight back to the drawing board and start on your next attempt at viral fame though, you need to take a good look at your last piece of content. You need to think about what went wrong, and why this piece of content didn’t go viral. Does it perfectly emulate other viral marketing campaigns? Did you put enough money behind it? What are people saying about it?

Each time you try to push a piece of content into becoming viral, you need to monitor it closely in order to review what worked well, and what didn’t. Then, you’re ready to create your next piece.

Viral Content Essentials

Although we can’t say exactly what makes a piece of content go viral, we can look at the things that seem to be apparent in all viral marketing campaigns.


The main aim of a viral marketing campaign is to evoke an emotional response from your audience. When you see the kinds of content that go viral across all platforms, you’ll see that it does elicit a reaction from most who share it. Whether it’s love, sadness, happiness, fear, anger, or any other kind of emotion, your viral content should have some kind of emotional message as the core foundation.

It is literally a case of appealing to your audience’s base instincts in order to trigger a response.


If you’ve ever stumbled across a piece of viral content on one of your own timelines, you’ve probably seen that piece of content coupled with the comment, “OMG! So relatable.”, or some variation thereof.

As with the emotional response, this is appealing to the person directly, presenting them with something that they can relate to. This is easily fulfilled as well. During your research phase, you can use social media softwares to look at what people are talking about, what their opinions are, and how they react to certain things. You may even stumble across another piece of viral content that people relate to, but then be able to present it differently yourself, in a new and interesting way.

Of course, this is harder to predict than emotions, as every person has different life experience and therefore different things they can relate to. We all experience a similar range of emotions though.


Although not all viral content is controversial, most controversial content seems to go viral.

Ignoring what we said above, you may want to go for the complete opposite of relatable, and present a controversial view on a subject. There are content creators who survive purely on this tactic, churning out controversial video after controversial video, receiving a lot of backlash, but also a lot of exposure.

Of course, we definitely don’t recommend this if you’re a business looking to increase your brand awareness. Unfortunately, unlike another old marketing proverb, not all publicity is good publicity.





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