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What are the best ways to create viral content?

Everyone wants to go viral online but few actually put their odds in their favor. Most demand virality with boring and cold feeling content. This is a delusion. Going viral is a soft science and there isn’t any specific playbook to go by; however, most viral phenomena have a common characteristics. Essentially, be authentic, be interesting, and be relevant. It is important to know that viral content and viral apps are two different things – the frameworks are similar but the tactics are quite different.

Rules for Viral Content

Viral content follows a common pattern. Following these rules doesn’t guarantee success; however, your odds are better if you follow these rules of thumb.

  • Platform relevant and agnostic – If your content works well on more platforms, your potential audience is larger. Pick a content type that is easily adaptable to multiple platforms. This increases your chances of going viral. Right now, video is probably the most ubiquitous viral content type.
  • Authentic – Think of it this way. Do you like vouching for fake “friends”? Do you want to share dry and impersonal content? It isn’t likely. Sharing a piece of content is a stamp of approval. People are vouching for you. Making your content authentic and personal will increase the probably people will share it.
  • Emotionally Laced – Viral content usually inspires a strong emotional response, whether joy or outrage. The stronger the emotional response, the more likely an individual will utilize social media to resolve this need. By posting on social media, an individual is finding a vehicle for their emotion and looking for validation.
  • Consumable – Viral content is almost always easy to understand very quickly. The longer it takes for a viewer to understand the meaning of a piece of content lowers the probability a user will share it. Simplier messages have a broader, more direct appeal.
  • Galvanizing to action – Whatever the emotional trigger, viral content inspires further action. Most viral content motivates a user to share to inform their network. The action must be publicly acceptable to be associated with it. When people share content, they will be asking their network to adopt the respective call-to-action.
  • Organically driven – As a content moves into viral status, it takes on a life of its own. Viral content starts to adapt and mold into memes. People will adapt the concepts into their own narratives, playing on the popularity of the viral phenomena.

Alex Skatell, founder of IJ Review, is a thought leader in creating consumable, narrative driven viral content for the political space. IJ Review is infamously known for creating viral content on a repeatable basis. Here is an interview with Alex at Reboot 2016.

Viral Content Frameworks

Several frameworks exist on how to identify and how to create viral content. Here are the top two frameworks you can utilize in own work.

Jonah Berger’s STEPPs (Part 1 and Part 2) framework

  • Social Currency – makes you look good
  • Triggers – top-of-mind in people’s everyday lives
  • Emotion – connect with people’s feelings
  • Publicness – do people know about it (social proof)
  • Practical Value – appeal to people’s good nature
  • Stories – packaged to be retold again and again

Nir Eyal Hooked framework

  • Trigger – brings you in (email)
  • Action – asks you to do something (share)
  • Reward – get something in return (points)
  • Investment – builds a long-term relationship (profile status)

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