I’ve talked a lot about content marketing in the last few months, since content replaced SEO (to an extent) as the key determinant of your traffic.Today, I found this cool infographic (and geeky little me, you KNOW I love infographics) explaining what makes content sharing go VIRAL.

And, of course, getting content sharing to go viral is the name of the game. In fact, this happened to me a week or so ago and I was super excited. For some reason, a post went viral — bringing 3X as much traffic as usual. Unfortunately, this increased traffic didn’t represent a new normal for my site and, within a few days, my traffic went back to it’s old level. Boo Hoo.

What makes content sharing go VIRAL?

I sat and puzzled over my analytics trying to figure out what I’d done RIGHT so I could repeat this feat as often as possible, but, to no avail.

This made me extra excited to find this infographic — hey, give me a break. I have a boring life and get excited easily.

So, what makes content sharing go viral? According to data, generating emotional energy when folks read your content, makes it go viral. Hmmm, well, my post was on the digital conversion funnel, which I don’t see as especially emotional. Read it for yourself and let me know what emotions you feel! Weird — I don’t feel anything.

Although, if you’re a business struggling to generate ROI through your digital platforms, maybe the content does help make sense of your experience.

So, a single emotion is worth 2.9 additional hours on content. Well, I’ll certainly make you cry in the next post! Maybe that explains why controversial posts succeed so well.

Here’s some other evidence pointing to what makes content sharing go viral.

  • Headlines – most folks only have time to read the headline. If it’s crappy (very technical term there) they won’t read on or share. Of course, headlines have huge SEO value, so pay attention to your keywords.
  • Easily digested – no we don’t think readers are eating your posts (although the cloud sometimes seems to gobble mine up). What I mean is the content is chunked into easy to read segments using headers and bullet points. Hey guys, this is high school grammar.
  • Longer pieces tend to be shared more. That’s because they have more meat on them (back to the gastronomic references. It must be close to lunch). Seriously, longer posts provide more value, but I’m not gonna sit there and read War and Peace so there IS a limit.
  • Folks love to talk about themselves. I see this all the time. My most RT content is the daily thanks you’s I send to folks who share my content.
  • If you can surprise folks, they’ll share your content.
  • Personally, I think posts should be grammatically correct (although not formal) and spelled correctly. Maybe I’m old school.
  • I also think you need to find a voice that resonates with your target audience. Some of my favorite feedback from readers isn’t that I’m so smart (although I like that, too), but that I’m so approachable with no fussiness. The trick, for me, is that I talk to myself and just write down what I’m saying. You know, Einstein once said that you don’t really understand something if you can’t explain it to a 5 year-old. So, I don’t feel I have to impress you with big words and convoluted explanations.

Some things that make content sharing go viral don’t even appear on the page.

  1. Social currency – building a community online and off invites folks to share your content. And that takes time and effort.
  2. Triggers – reminders about your content.
  3. Consistent branding – this is just common sense, but you’d be surprised how many folks miss this. Your logo, color scheme, etc must be consistent across platforms.
  4. Practical value – try to break things down into small, doable elements — like the post I’m working on about doing social media in 30 minutes a day. Use examples and demonstrations to help get your point across. For instance, yesterday I shared some use cases of superior content marketing strategy to show some options for content creation/ curation.
  5. Storytelling – we never really outgrow our love of a good story. Tell yours.

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