How would you like your content to go viral? Of course you would!

Here’s the first thing you need to understand, though: not all content will go viral.

In fact, if you’re batting average on viral content is .100, you’re doing pretty well.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some best-practices you can follow to help your content catch on across cyberspace. In this guide, I’ll cover several tricks of the trade that you can use to produce viral content more consistently.

First: What Is Viral?

What does it mean to go viral? How do you know when something you’ve written has gone viral?

For starters, you don’t need a million shares before you can classify a blog post as “viral.”

The number of shares you should look for will depend on your industry. If you’re catering to a micro niche market, for example, you might go viral with just a few hundred shares.

So here’s your first step: establish a baseline. Determine the number of shares you need to see before you say that a blog post has gone viral.

In the following sections, I’ll list some suggestions for creating viral content.

Give the People What They Want

The first step is so simple that a lot of people overlook it: give your audience what they want.

When you post content that people in your target market absolutely love, you increase the chance that it will go viral.

So how do you know what people in your target market want to read? For that, you’ll have to do some research.

Answer questions like: what kind of content do the people in your audience like to share? Who are the influencers within your audience and what kinds of content do you see frequently posted on their social media timelines? What kind of content goes viral among people in your target audience?

Once you’ve got the answers to those questions, you’re in a much better position to produce viral content.

Create Content That Generates Emotion

As a rule of thumb, content that evokes powerful emotions tends to get shared.

That makes sense, if you think about it. Appealing to people on an emotional level is a principle of “old school” marketing. There’s no reason it shouldn’t be a principle of digital marketing as well.

A recent study that evaluated the relationship between emotions and viral content sheds some light on the subject. That research found that viral content can come down to just three factors: valence, arousal, and dominance.

When social scientists study those concepts together, they call it the VAD model. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Valence – the positivity or negativity associated with an emotion
  • Arousal – the extent to which an emotion generates excitement
  • Dominance – the extent to which an emotion empowers people

Take, for example, an emotion like fear. It has a negative valence because it’s a negative emotion, a high arousal measurement because it’s usually accompanied by some level of excitement, and a low dominance measurement because it’s unempowering.

So what does all that have to do with viral content? Quite a bit, actually.

Online articles that generate the most comments tend to generate high-arousal emotions like anger or happiness. But the study also found that low-dominance articles also got a lot of comments because people felt like they lacked control.

When it comes to social sharing, it’s a totally different story.

The research suggests that people are more likely to share content when it generates high-dominance emotions. That’s why inspiring content is so popular in your Facebook feed.

So how can you use that info to produce viral content? Post articles that people find empowering.

Deliver some “secrets” to success that their competitors don’t know about. Offer some pro-tips and life hacks that they won’t find anywhere else. Deliver practical advice that makes them say “Why didn’t I think of that?” out loud.

Help people. And they’ll help your business by sharing your content.

Shock ‘Em

Although the era of “shock jocks” reached its apex back in the 1990s, there are still a few with us. Whether we like it or not, their message resonates with many people.

Fortunately, the kind of shock I’m recommending doesn’t offend anyone. In fact, it does quite the opposite.

Here’s the secret: generate content with info that will surprise your readers.

In fact, if you want to generate some level of shock, there’s nothing wrong with using the word “shock” in the headline itself. For example: “Shock Study Reveals This Simple Change in Diet Could Add 11 Years to Your Life.”

You’ve probably seen headlines like that throughout cyberspace. Now, imagine a headline similar to that one but with a promise that appeals specifically to your target audience.

And, on top of that, imagine that the content of the article actually delivers on the promise in the headline.

That’s a blog post with some potential to go viral.

Enlist the Aid of Influencers

There’s only so much you can do by yourself. That’s why you need to enlist the aid of influencers who can help spread your content around cyberspace.

I mentioned above about getting to know your audience. Part of that effort involves identifying the people they like to follow on social media.

Those are the influencers you should be working with.

If you’re not sure how to find influencers within your audience, enlist the aid of a tool like FollowerWonk or BuzzSumo. They can identify the movers and shakers that you should reach out to.

But you shouldn’t just reach out to them. You should also watch what they do and imitate them.

What better way to become an influencer yourself than to do what popular influencers are already doing?

You should also share their content on your social media channels. Be sure to tag them when you do so. That’s how you’ll get their attention.

Wrapping It Up

Although going viral is sometimes just dumb luck, there’s also a science behind it. If you follow the right formula, you can increase the likelihood that your content will catch on.

Why not create a content calendar for viral blog posts today?

Then, generate some buzz about your brand with articles that spreads like wildfire.

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