How to create viral content

November 19, 2012 8:16 am

Yeah, that’s not going to happen. In short, distrust anyone who promises they know how to do this. Doubly distrust anyone who says they can guarantee it for you.

(And for bonus points, feel free to be as irked as the Collective Content team when anyone calls their own content ‘viral’. As a contact of ours said: “It’s a title that is bestowed, like being called an ‘entrepreneur’.” It is also about results, which you clearly don’t know when you first put something out on the internet.)

There are those who know how to make content go far. One of the inspirations for this post is this podcast with Mark Malkoff over on Social Media Examiner. He’s a guy who knows video, knows comedy and has a feel for compelling content. They describe him as a “comedian who makes videos go crazy viral”.

Comedians do funny. I don’t. (In 10 years-plus of being involved with the infamous silicon.com

Weekly Round-Up email I never wrote it. I can edit funny content – just – but know I’m not the gags guy.)

But while he, like some others, has a good hit rate when it comes to virality, make no mistake, he can’t guarantee a viral post.

All any of us can do is increase the chances of our content being widely consumed. Fortunately the web – unlike a book or magazine, say – is by its nature scalable. Collective Content reckons there are two major ways to increase the chances of your content going far.

First, believe in the power of Big Content. When any content creator takes a careful, long run-up to a piece of original content the chances are higher that it will be valuable. There is also a chance your audience can tell you’ve made the effort. This ‘feeling the love’ isn’t enough in itself but it can help.

Second, remember the mantra of the successful blog post. Hit these four marks, hit them often:

  1. Great headlines. These are the first – and sometimes only – thing your audience sees. Refine, refine, refine. Don’t just write for SEO. Make your subject clear.
  2. Think visually. Photos, animation, video. All are easily consumable and there is growing evidence the web is becoming more visual, even among high-end or B2B audiences.
  3. Be concise. Concise is good, though proper Big Content (think of a New Yorker or Wired article) is sometimes better. Waffling along somewhere between the two? No, no, no.
  4. Share-ability. Make it as easy as possible for users to share your content. This isn’t just about buttons. It’s about audience empathy. How will they look if their friends read/see what you’ve created?

Remember: You don’t create viral content. You make your words, pictures, video and more as good as they can be. You increase the chances of it being shared. And, very occasionally, you might just have a viral hit. But don’t count on it.

* photo credit: AJC1 via photopin cc

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