March 11, 2013

The secret behind creating viral content

  • Buffer
  • Buffer

Uncovering the mystery of virality

Target audience: Nonprofits, cause organizations, foundations, NGOs, social enterprises, businesses, marketers, Web publishers, video producers.

John HaydonThat’s right. A video of goats yelling like humans gets 12 million YouTube views in a month.

When nonprofits ask me how to create viral content, I talk about videos like the one above, which probably makes them wonder why they hired me.

The truth is, I have no idea what makes anything go viral. The common ingredients of viral content are well documented, but there seems to be something magically delicious and fantastic that’s hard to pinpoint. And that gets me excited!

The science behind viral content

Scientific research on what makes content go viral has found:

The viral content checklist

There’s also this amazingly useful “viral checklist” from Carson Ward:

  • Did you sufficiently cover the topic? Is it long enough? (24)
  • Does the content inspire a high-energy emotion like awe (16), anger (18), or anxiety (18)?
  • Did your tone convey emotion? (12)
  • Is it practically useful? (16)
  • Is it interesting? (14)
  • Is it surprising? (8)
  • Does the author have fame/credibility? (8)
  • If it’s supposed to be funny, is it actually funny? Are you sure your friends aren’t just being nice? (?)

(Next to each question there’s a maximum score to help prioritize the most important factors.)

The fact that the answers to these questions are largely subjective complicates matters that much more. You see, human beings are infinitely complex and dynamic.

So even the best attempt at creating viral content might still end up falling flat.

The secret behind viral content

The secret is that everyone is just as befuddled as you are. And yes, the experts are confused, too (even though many won’t admit it).

But confusion can be immensely beneficial.

Confusion is proof that you’re seeking, stretching, trying, testing and learning, which is way more interesting than a video of goats yelling like humans.

What do you think are some critical elements of virality?

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John Haydon delivers social web strategy solutions for “the quick, the smart, and the slightly manic.” Curious? Then connect up: Contact John by email, see his profile page, visit the John Haydon blog, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment.

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