Going viral is the content marketer’s holy grail. By making audiences feel compelled to share your content, you can multiply the impact of your marketing spend by orders of magnitude. But how do you make that happen? How do you create viral content, like the Old Spice Guy video campaign . . .
. . . or this tweet from Adobe . . .
— Adobe (@Adobe) February 27, 2015
Unfortunately, there’s no guaranteed recipe for creating viral content. Whether your content goes viral is the audience’s decision—it’s out of your hands. But taking the following steps will improve your odds of achieving viral success:
1. Make sure your product meets or exceeds your brand promise. This should be a no-brainer. If your branding emphasizes speed, or reliability, or affordability, your product had better be fast, or reliable, or affordable. If it isn’t—beware. In the worst case, negative reviews of your product will go viral. This, of course, is the kind of virality you don’t want. Consider the following, a catchy ditty about United Airlines that has more than 15 million views on YouTube . . .
2. Create stand-out messaging. Your message needs to rise above the noise. For this to happen, you need to stop selling and start focusing on providing audiences with real value. This can be aesthetic or entertainment value—as in the case of GE’s popular Instagram feed—or it can be more the practical value that audiences get from the respected GE Reports brand magazine, which publishes technology stories that frequently go viral. And you’ll improve your chances at virality by making your content emotionally engaging—surprising, anxiety-provoking, or (above all) awe-inspiring.
3. Write a good headline. The headline is your hook. It needs to grab the audience’s attention by promising content that’s particularly valuable and/or emotionally engaging. This article is a good place to start.
4. Be strategic about content distribution. Virality typically begins within specific communities. Content about games and gaming goes viral within gaming communities, for instance. Fashion-focused content goes viral within completely different communities. Ditto for content about technology, or finance, or healthcare. And so on. The point is this: To maximize your reach, identify and make content of value to specific communities, then distribute your content to those communities.