Uncovering the mystery of virality
Target audience: Nonprofits, cause organizations, foundations, NGOs, social enterprises, businesses, marketers, Web publishers, video producers.
That’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:
- Length matters. Longer articles tend to be shared far more often than short ones
- Emotions matter. You share content that makes you feel anxiety, awe and anger far more than you share content that makes you feel sad.
- Controversy matters. Blogs posts written about controversial topics get twice as many comments.
- Being useful matters. Content that is interesting or has immediate utility gets shared more.
- Humor matters. Humor is the single most common element of most viral ads. So shut up and be funny!
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?
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported.