Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

Want to go viral?: Overjoy, enrage or educate your audience

What makes an online content viral? This is an eternal question for all the content marketers and creators. While online trends changing with dizzying speed, and there’s an unprecedented boom of new platforms and new features, choosing the right publishing channel gets harder as much as creating the right content for the key audiences. I don’t want to be another ‘Captain Obvious’ here; since there are thousands of articles about content marketing and viral content, stating very basic tips. What I want to share is some interesting findings I’ve got so far, which I believe can give you a different perspective in your quest of going viral.

While Seth Godin calls content marketing ‘the only marketing left’, we can assume that whoever unfolds the secrets of creating viral content, holds the future of marketing as well.

Ready for a workout for a killer content strategy?

Let’s say you were fortunate (OK, also wise) enough to create a great viral video and you couldn’t believe in your metrics hitting the peak numbers. So what is next? Creating more of the same content, right? Sorry, but the answer is a big ‘no’.

You might not be the gym type but, you need to hear this strategy, which is called: ‘Barbells vs Treadmills’. In this article, Janessa Lantz swears by the success of this technique, with a proven track record of how it saved their plunging content performance, resulting in great engagement rates, not only for a short time after publishing the content but also keeping this performance months after.

In a nutshell, this strategy aims to rescue you from the tiring cycle of ‘content treadmill’, which is based on finding what your audience interests in, hiring more people to create more and more content on these topics, crossing fingers for reaching higher leads and repeat this cycle. Lantz says besides their metrics had proven that this strategy is fell flat, in the long term this might hurt the brand as well.

Create ‘a single piece of big-hit content’, break it down, re-edit for different platforms and audience, make your best promotion for it, instead of creating many different content of the same topic. Choose quality over quantity.

What to do then? Try some ‘barbelling’ instead… This strategy builds on choosing quality over quantity. The quality of your content has an exponentially more significant impact than quantity, which means ‘You likely need far less content to achieve your goals than you think’, Lantz says. So instead of asking ‘How we can create more content’, ask ‘What kind of content can bring the greatest attention from our audience and creates a deep connection?’ When you find the answer, create ‘one piece of big hit content’ instead of many different ones, and generate the possible highest value out of it, by tailoring for different platforms and audience. Then make sure you spread it everywhere utilizing of PR, SEO, blogging, webinars and so on. To read more, please check Lantz’s piece: ‘Barbells vs. Treadmills: A Fresh Take on Content Strategy’

Go for the extremes: Make your audience ecstatic or furious

After reading this title, you might ask that ‘Who would want their audience’s anger?’ Well, of course no one (unless you are a crazy Youtuber and want to be famous whatever it takes), but if you direct this anger to the topic of your content not to yourself, you will attract more attention than making your audience sad. And this is proven by the academia. Let’s go deeper into this.

This study, which focuses on the psychological aspects of viral content, suggests ‘a strong relationship between emotional arousal and virality’ regardless of the valence of these emotions. After analyzing New York Times articles published over three months, the researchers found that highly emotionally charged content is tend to be shared more, regardless if it creates overjoy or anger. You need to evoke high-arousal emotions in your audience, to make them share your content. Take two emotions: Anger and sadness… Although both are negative, anger is characterized by high-activation which pushes people to take action (like sharing and commenting), while sadness is a low energy, deactivating emotion.

While more positive or more negative content tends to be more viral than a piece of content which doesn’t evoke any emotion or low activation, positive ones still have a higher potential of being viral.

Actually, this study can be proof of why politics are still a favourite online topic, even it makes many people angry or anxious. If you don’t want to take risks of covering annoying stories, the study still suggests that activation of positive emotions takes the lead of viral contents, as long as you generate these emotions is a high level. To read more, please check this study: ‘What Makes Online Content Viral?’ by Jonah A. Berger and Katherine L. Milkman.

Mirror mirror, who is the smartest of them all?

Your audience is ‘emotionally charged’ now. Can it be sustainable? Not likely, unless you are a master level influencer. But you can still hit the trending lists if you ‘educate’ your audience. In the age of internet, there’s an oversaturation of information, open to everyone on any subject; from data engineering by a reputable university to how to cook the perfect pancake by a world-renowned chef. If we have a problem, we ‘Google it’ before anything else, this simple. Just type ‘How to’ to Google search and see the variety of subjects people search for.

Besides bringing solutions to problems, people like to share educational videos to show how ‘smart’ or ‘well-read’ they are, as a matter of ‘self-presentation’ or ‘extended-self’ as marketing professionals call it. While there’s a vast amount of information is within our reach, a challenge arises to find the most interesting and useful information and sharing it online to differentiate from others.

Whilst big brands successfully profiting this trend by building their content strategies around it, influencers or individual content creators also publishing more of DIY (do it yourself) videos or sharing their years of experience/knowledge about a specific subject.

In conclusion, when you aim for creating viral content, put yourself into your audience’s shoes: what makes you excited, interested or go into action? What do you consider as an ‘added value’ to your life? When you get your answer, create a big content around it and promote as much as you can by different means of marketing. In the end, we all are audiences of someone else’s content.

A seasoned TV journalist, fascinated by digital world/ Discovering the power of storytelling in digital extent…

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Nezahat Sevim

Nezahat Sevim

A seasoned TV journalist, fascinated by digital world/ Discovering the power of storytelling in digital extent…

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