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Do you watch viral videos and think ‘how they managed to do it?’ And what exactly is viral content anyway?

Put simply, a piece of content that’s circulated rapidly and widely from one web user to another. In other words, content that spreads on the web within days or even hours (literally, like a virus).

Here’s what you need to know about the art and science of Viral Marketing.


1. Novelty

Research says that our brain feels rewarded with novel ideas, and when people feel like they’ve been led to a new idea, their brains and bodies release dopamine, a pleasure inducing neurotransmitter.

Ofcourse, new ideas don’t come around easy.

A more practical approach is to improve already successful content pieces (with new information, data and facts, maybe).

You could also club two unrelated concepts. Can you imagine campaigns with fashion and food? Piecing together trending topics with intriguing spins makes people take a creative leap of imagination. In content marketing, this exploration translates into readers spending more time on your site and sharing your content.

Triggering curiosity

2. Triggering curiosity

When people feel there’s a gap between ‘what they know’ and ‘what they want to know’, they are compelled to fill the gap with information related to it.

If you offer users this chance of filling the gap, they feel motivated to not just read your content but also share it on platforms for others to learn. 

Evoking Emotions

3. Evoking emotion

Plenty of case studies exist that claim emotions are key to virality.

1. Fear: Content that warns and increases awareness has more chances of becoming viral.

2. Sadness: A sad video can go viral because people empathise with the story.

3. Anger: Causes people to react, express their outrage and fuels others to join in the conversation.

While great content is shared for many reasons, content that stimulates positive feelings tends to perform better than those with negative feelings, boasting a higher click to tweet rate. And content that evokes emotional reactions such as awe, excitement or amusement have been getting more shares than low-arousal content that evokes contentment or sadness.

Interestingly, content evoking negative emotions such as anger and anxiety are ‘highly’ shared if the reader is given an opportunity to express his/her stand and share his/her views. 

4. Age matters

Studies show that although millennials share music, articles, and videos, they are less surprised and lack emotional connection with their content. 

The same age group, though, is excited to explore and share dynamic, personalised, interactive content that entertains them.

By all means, if you’re trying to get to millennials, make sure your content is a combination of emerging trends filled with novelty, curiosity and surprise.

Storytelling matters

5. Storytelling matters

People love a good story, and the idea of a narrative voice i.e. embedding a human quality into the tale, makes the latter immediately identifiable and easy to understand. You can effectively make a point and engage others if you know how to tell a good ‘human’ story.


6. Readability

Technically, your content should aim for reading-comprehension of a ninth-grader if you’re targeting a wide group of people. However, keep in mind, content that’s simple does NOT mean simplifying your content.

idea is to let people spend enough time on your content. If you manage to do that, it’s an indication that you are successful in making an impression within a short span of time (which is very short – say the speed of a swipe or a scroll), and the next obvious thing for them to do is share, tweet or forward.

Valid criticism

7. Valid criticism

People will get engaged in conversations with you if you supply them with valuable content that makes them ponder, concur and develop opinions.

These silent conversations build long-term relationships, and when you offer critical thoughts that can possibly lead to debates, analysis and discussions, you are creating unique content that adds to your value proposition.

It will also lead to a series of binge sessions on what you’ve previously produced.

Usefulnessof content

8. Usefulness of content

Jonah Berger’s survey found that highly practical articles were 34% more likely to go viral.

People share content that’s useful and practical in a bid to help friends, develop themselves, and for social acceptance.

No wonder ‘How-to’ listicles and infographics are popular – they offer clear, instantly applicable advice that can make everyone’s life simple.

Making people look good

9. Making people look good

NY Times found that people share content if it makes them look good. In addition, people feel that when they like or share creative, thought-provoking content, those attributes (creativity, intellect, artistic) become associated with their personas as well.


10. Interactivity

Written text can be made conversational with visually enthralling images, designs, parallax scrolling, infographics and other multimedia elements.

Some websites and apps also employ user-generated content.

Others, like interactive quizzes, are gaining popularity in social-media because of their share-worthiness and ability to allow users to learn more about themselves.

11.  Trustworthy research

At a time when people are listing authenticity as their top most requirement, it is important to publish exclusive content such as survey results and original data-driven articles. Jeff Bullas suggests free survey tools to conduct informal studies, public API’s, and an internal database to disseminate information concerning your field.

Collaborating with experts and opinion makers also makes for credible, share-worthy content. And while personal stories are a great way to build connections with people, backing up stories with expert opinions gives you much needed credibility.


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