How can I make my content go viral?

How can I make my content go viral?

We’ve all seen them; those viral videos and images that effortlessly capture the attention of the online world. The content quickly spreads through Facebook and Twitter; attracting multiple likes, shares, comments, favourites and retweets.

The results can transform a brand through by traffic to its site and increasing awareness of products and services.

What is it about this content? Is there a formula to the content that catches the attention of the masses and spurs people on to share it across their own social media networks?

Microsoft’s editor Andrew Hunter and Ninemsn’s editor Hal Crawford from Share Wars analysed news sharing in Australia from March to June 2012 to help find out what content the online audience really want to see. The full article can be found in the Walkley Magazine.

What did they find?

1. Sharing is not sharing

Approximately two thirds of top stories usually involved the “norming” category. This is an appeal to group identity, usually involving a moral judgement. Gay marriage (approval), bad parenting (disapproval) and instances of righteous violence (approval) were amongst the most popular topics.

2. The US is more partisan than Australia

Norming is bigger in America. When the pair compared US and Australian publications, they found that judgemental, identity-reinforcing stories account for close to three quarters of all shared US stories. Australia, by comparison, has just over 60 per cent norming.

3. The most shared story in Australia was…

An article about a young woman who sued Geelong Grammar because she didn’t get into law at the University of Sydney. This story from The Age achieved a total share count of more than 34,000.

4. Words that share

The 10 most common words in headlines of Australian news stories that received 100-plus Facebook shares were (in order):

You, Gay, Facebook, Baby, Girl, Teen, Marriage, Mum, Life, Sex.

Hunter and Crawford believe words like Facebook and Twitter are amongst the most shared because social platforms have an inbuilt promotional advantage. They believe their collision with traditional life generates fascinating stories that are distributed through mainstream media and the social networks themselves.

5. Words that don’t share

The 10 most common headline words for those Australian stories that received zero shares were:

Stocks, China, Syria, Shares, Report, Murder, Budget, Plan, Markets, Case.

The least popular topics include many that do not involve action – i.e. “report” and “plan”. Their explanation is that news audiences do not like inaction.

6. Most shared topics

Hunter and Crawford manually classified the 500 most shared Australian news stories by subject and the most popular topics during our capture period:

  • Stars (about famous people)
  • Animals (often animals behaving like humans)
  • Kids (cute and courageous children)
  • Gay rights (mostly gay marriage)
  • Crime sagas (e.g. Baden-Clay charged, Naden caught)
  • Cool culture (e.g. Anchorman II announced)
  • Parenting (neglectful parents/discipline)
  • Nanny state (e.g. ban on touching in schools)
  • Quakes (e.g. Melbourne earthquake)

The overarching theme of the pair’s research shows that most people want to share positive content – i.e. marriage, baby, mum, animals and cool culture, rather than negative topics with little action. Content that gets shared often sparks debate and encourages people to comment and engage.

There can never be a hard and fast rule to ensuring your content goes viral (if there was, everyone would be doing it), but targeting your audience will help you achieve results.

Also remember to consider the purpose of encouraging your content to go viral – do you want to increase visits to your website? Increase newsletter sign ups? Boost your social media following? Viral content can make or break a brand, so don’t take it lightly.

What do you think? Do you have any other tips to helping your content increase its ‘sharability factor?’

(Image: Mashable)


Each week a staff member puts pen to paper to write about an aspect of content communication that speaks to them, and hopefully, informs you. This is a space where our passion for writing, learning and sharing information comes to shine.

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