Creating Viral Content

When it comes to creating viral online content, marketing experts seem to be divided. However, there are recurring trends in viral content that seem to have a significant impact on whether or not a piece of content gets shared by millions.

Length of content

Carson Ward suggests longer content is more likely to be shared and go viral. Ward reasons that long pieces have the potential to be thorough in a way that is impossible for shorter pieces. Mark Smiciklas opposes Ward’s views, and says shorter content is more likely to go viral, because web users want small chunks of information that they can easily skim through.

When you’re writing content for your company, it’s important to think of your target audience and what they want to read. With so much information available to consumers online, their attention span is small. It’s important that you grab their attention and convey your message quickly. As a consumer, I wouldn’t spend 15 minutes of my time reading an article online; I want to read quick pieces of information that are easy to digest. When you’re creating content, keep it short to keep consumers’ attention.

Inspiring emotions

Marketing experts agree that content that inspires emotion is more likely to be shared, but there is some debate over which emotions have the biggest impact. Derek Halpern says positive content is more likely to go viral than negative content. Halpern says there are a lot of unhappy people in the world and uplifting content helps them to get out of their rut, if only temporarily. Ward says that anger elicits more shares. You see it all the time on Facebook, if a person is angry with what a company says or does, they’ll rant about why the company is wrong.

There’s no significant proof that one emotion is better than another, but it is evident that when you’re writing content, you should try and stir up some type of emotion. Consumers won’t waste their valuable time reading or watching something that has no emotional impact on them. Below is an example of one of my favorite videos that created impact by stirring up emotions.

Is creating viral content even important?

Now that you know several important factors in determining whether or not content goes viral, you might want to consider if viral content is even that important. Kelsey Libert says creating engagement is good, but viral content is best. Dorie Clark counters Libert’s statement and says you don’t need 10 million views to succeed, but building a loyal following of a longer period of time is more beneficial for a company.

Viral content can get you thousands of views in a short period of time, but marketing a brand is more about long-term success and creating a loyal customer base. Viral videos are great, but eventually people stop watching and stop talking about you. Have you heard anything from Antoine Dodson after he warned millions to hide their kids and wives? If you post quality content frequently, you will build trust and authority with consumers, and they’ll stick with you for longer than a fleeting second.

Whether you’re trying to create viral content, or content that builds brand loyalty over time, it’s important to include share buttons on all of your content. Your message will reach far more people if you include links for consumers to share on social media networks.

Questions to consider:

1. Is it better to create viral content that has an immediate, but short-lived impact on masses, or is it better to consistently produce quality content and attain a large following over a longer period of time?

2. What emotions does your favorite viral content stir up?

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8 thoughts on “Creating Viral Content

  1. Hi Lauren

    As you mentioned, it takes more than great content to make a video go viral. The content has to capture the attention of an audience and encourage them to pass it on to others. The general consensus is that going viral equals tons of views, however, I would argue it has to hit a number of diverse mediums and engage different demographics of viewers and have longevity. I would prefer to consistently produce quality content that engages and builds an audience instead of becoming a one hit wonder.

    • I completely agree. It’s better for an organization to focus on creating content that resonates with their target audience, than to focus on creating content that resonates with everyone.

  2. I think it depends how much time you have to get recognition and what your ultimate goal is. It would definitely be better for your brand in the long run to consistently produce quality content and attain a large following over time but as one of the articles mentioned, you don’t always have time for that. In those cases, your only option is to go viral.

    I am a sucker for comedy. I love viral videos that makes me laugh. So much of what we deal with in life is stressful and heavy. It’s nice to have a break with some levity every now and then.

    • I wish the reading had provided an example or case study of a company that had to produce viral content because of time constraints. It would have been nice to better understand the situation, because it seems like you would always want to focus on reaching your target audience as opposed to reaching the masses. I guess if you need instant recognition, viral is the way to go.

  3. A brand has to create quality content long term or else they will lose customers as fast as they gained them. The first thing that came to my mind was the Gangnam Style video. That video was crazy popular; however, that singer will never have a song that popular again. It’s important to create consistent content that will keep people engaged far into the future. Otherwise, you are probably wasting your time and money.

    • Good point about losing customers as fast as you gained them. I agree that it seems like a waste of time and resources to focus on creating viral content. Companies should focus on creating a message that reaches their intended audience, and if the content goes viral, that’s just an added bonus.

  4. My favorite content tends to leave me with some kind of internal debate. I’m a sucker for well written news stories that provide both sides of an argument without favoring one over the other. I’ll admit I also usually fall for the occasional comedy and light hearted content, but it doesn’t really inspire me to share it or anything.

    • It’s hard to find news content that isn’t biased these days! I’m definitely most likely to share content that’s humorous or awe-inspiring, just because it’s a nice break from serious news.

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