Tips for Creating Contagious Content
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Tips for Creating Contagious Content

From cat videos to heartwarming personal posts, what goes viral on the internet these days may seem baffling at first. And yet, we’re all striving after it; it’s what digital marketers dream about. Not just is it marketing gold, but it’s free! Why wouldn’t we all be after the key to a successfully viral post?

The cold hard truth is that there is no exact formula to viral posts. Like all good advertising and promotion, viral content takes creativity, the best timing, and just a little bit of luck. And while we can’t conjure up some luck at our disposal, the other two qualities, creativity and timing, are a little more under our control. That being said, let’s jump into our top ten viral content tips:

  1. Start with some research.
    Find out what’s going viral now. Sites like StumbleUpon and BuzzFeed often show what is popular. BuzzFeed creates a list of the top 20 viral posts of the week, and includes indicators that show each post’s reach.
  2. Play to your audience.
    Make sure you’re sharing the media Facebook users actually want. Pandemic Labs found that marketers are mostly sharing text-based posts, but users like to share videos and photos. Interestingly enough, what brands are posting most is what people like the least. Videos are ten times more likely to be shared than links, and photos are five times more popular than links. With this data being based on 300 Facebook pages, 150,000 Facebook posts, and 700,000,000 Facebook fans, it’s safe to say that it’s legit.
  3. Create content with real personality
    Breathe life into the product or service by giving it character. Keep in mind that positive content is usually more viral than negative content. To push that further, content that evokes high arousal emotions, positive or negative, is more viral than content void of emotion. Think awe, anger, anxiety, or joy. Finally, people like sharing practically useful content to help out their fans and friends (see what I’m doing here with this list of tips?).
  4. Be a familiar voice.
    The tone of your content should be authentic and real. In looking to get content shared, marketers should focus on what will resonate with a large audience and get people talking to their colleagues, friends, and families.
  5. Tell stories.
    Use storytelling techniques, coupled with strong imagery that is relevant, beautiful, shocking, edgy, or unique to create a world for your brand. Along with that, you should forget the hard sell. Audiences will immediately shut down if they feel like they are watching an ad. According to the Harvard Review, the number one problem facing digital marketers on their quest to go viral is a pushy brand. This is not to say you should extract branding from your content entirely; just be more subtle.
  6. Be funny!
    Do something hysterical in an unexpected way and illustrate it with a compelling image or story. Remember that ridiculous Kia Soul 2011 “Party Rock Anthem” commercial, with the hamsters? Of course you do! That’s because the Kia commercial was hysterical and unique; it has brought in over 18.9 million views in the last year.
  7. Tell a moving, inspiring, or powerful story.
    An ad that taps into the emotional center of a person will likely go viral by powerfully informing, inspiring, or moving one to action. One of our previous blog posts is a wonderful example of this! Last month, our “Five Reasons It’s Great to Work for A Faith-Based Company” blog was personable and connected to our readers; it was the most viral post in Black Tie history.
  8. Make it safe.
    Posts that can be safely viewed at work or in mixed company will likely go viral the quickest. Posts go viral faster if you can share them with family and work colleagues without risking your career.
  9. Video length can be tricky.
    When it comes to video posts, the common wisdom is to keep it pithy and short. However, recent studies have argued that if you have a very strong story to tell accompanied by compelling imagery, longer videos can have high viral potential because audiences become invested in the story and outcome.
  10. Savvy timing.
    ly recommends posting between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., and not posting over the weekends. Links posted after 8:00 p.m. and before 8:00 a.m. on Facebook don’t get the most clicks. In general, traffic fades after 4:00 p.m. and though things pick up at 9:00 a.m., it is best to wait until 11:00 a.m. to post. Check out this useful heat map, which shows Facebook peak traffic times, indicated by the darker blocks near the center of the map, and the lighter blocks represent less traffic. The data was gathered over a 24-hour period.

While there is no one formula to create contagious content, adding these elements to your personal content recipe will definitely yield some sweet results.