Monetization Tools & Tech

What Makes Online Content Go Viral?

sovrnmarketing // January 9, 2015

woman working at desk

Creating content that resonates with your audience is one thing, creating content that compels your audience to share that piece with their friends is another beast entirely. Out of all the copious amount of research that has been done surrounding the virality of online content, there are a small handful of consistencies that are worth sharing here with you today.

Know your audience

I can’t stress this enough. Before you even begin writing, you need to put some time into researching your audience. You can use different audience analytics tools to learn more about your readership and gain better insights into who is actually visiting your site. Once you figure out whom exactly you’re targeting, then you can begin writing your Hamlet.
As a Part II to this step, do some research on what topics interest your target audience. It might be manual, but at the end of this exercise you will have an accurate list of high level topics to help guide your content marketing efforts. And the best part is you will be making these decisions based on fact, not assumption. Pipetop provides a great example of how they went about a similar exercise below.
Start by researching who exactly you want to target. You can do so by finding specific people at your target company through LinkedIn, then following them on Twitter and scrolling through their feeds to see what topics they’re posting about. It’s tedious, but it works.
customer interest spreadsheet pipetop

Write a catchy headline

David Ogilvy, widely hailed as “The Father of Advertising”, writes, “On average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” As cliché as this might be, it’s true.
Nowadays people get a majority of their information online. They subscribe to their favorite news outlets, blogs, influential people, etc. In order to make your content stand out when lined up against all the other pieces out there, you’re going to need an evocative headline that catches your reader’s attention.
For example (bear with me here): If your topic is about bathing koala bears, your title might look something like, “How to bathe a koala bear.” Here’s an example of spicing it up for your audience: “18 Surprising Ways You Can Bathe a Koala Bear.” See what I’m saying? However, people don’t want to be tricked into reading something boring; they want to be drawn into something enticing. Make it worth their while. You owe it to them.

Write something useful

This might sound obvious, but too often do writers error on the side of fluff when they should be writing about something their readers can not only relate to, but also apply in their real lives. I’m not saying every post should be pertain to something practical, I’m all for writing about the intangible, but more often than not, the content that goes viral is the content that your readers can use in their every day lives, the content they can share.
Readers love content that teaches them something, or shows them something they can then apply to their jobs or personal lives. If it works for them they are more likely to share it with their friends. It’s all about scale.

Networking is the best marketing

It’s been said that writing good content isn’t enough for it to go viral, especially not in today’s world where we absorb the large majority of information online. While I absolutely hate this, it’s true.
Getting your writing in front of the right people through the right venue at the right time is what will make the difference in terms of reach. This is a code every serious writer, blogger and publisher is trying to crack. I won’t pretend to tell you how to do it flawlessly, but I can say that asking the right questions to the right people will take you places. For example, if you’re a food blogger looking for advice on how to grow your reach, you might want to contact the dynamic duo over at Pinch of Yum and Food Blogger Pro. These two are constantly creating viral content in the world of food-related content.
So do your homework, research how your peers are doing it. Get your Hamlet published on as many affiliate sites as possible. Understanding the way you have to play the game will get you where you want to be. So put the time in, reach out to experts in your field and ask them questions about how to get your writing in front of a major online publication.
old man at coffee shop

Success starts with passion

Jeff Goins once wrote, “Don’t do it for the money. The less you care about your audience’s affections, the more your audience will be affected by your work.” Goins also published ‘The Writer’s Manifesto’, which I have found extremely helpful on numerous occasions.
I remember I was reading “1984” when I was 18 or 19 or something, and the single opening line of that novel blew my mind so completely that I began to love the possibility of what you can say in one sentence. And I think that love is where “it” comes from. As long as you admire language and put the time in you will be fine. The bitch of it is that so much of writing viral content is just this inherent sense, this idea that these words in a row that feel powerful to me might sway you. If you stay true to your voice and try to adopt some of these best practices, you will be fine.
Just get into the trenches with reading and writing. That is where the meat is.

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