What Makes Viral Content Go Viral

The 21st century belongs to social media. Everything we do, everywhere we go, is recorded and posted for everyone else from our family to friends to workers to see. And everything someone posts is reshared and reposted if it has relevance in our lives. Every person, from an ordinary social media user to an influencer, to giant global brands, is in competition with each other to become recognized on social media platforms. At times, even a well-recognized brand doesn’t get the traffic they want on a post, and at others an account with a measly 6K followers on Twitter gets their tweet reaching and being shared on all parts of the world. But how? What makes people share your content? What makes viral content go viral? We have tried to answer your question in this blog.

My 4 years on Twitter have taught me very strongly that no one shares your content out of the kindness of their heart (unless it’s a post asking for donations), and I know when I tweet I don’t ask for kindness either. It’s all a matter of which content reaches what part of someone’s brain to elicit a response from them. Let’s call these responses from the brain ‘triggers’. When content goes viral, it means it triggered that one spot in a person which made them take action. This action can be positive, resulting in the content being shared, and at the same time, it can be negative, resulting in you getting criticized.

These triggers are what make your content become viral on social media platforms. And how you apply these triggers in your marketing strategy to make your content viral, is a matter of which trigger you’re targeting in your audience. And this is what makes a good content creator into a great marketer.

1. Appeal to the Audience’s Tribal Needs

What do we mean by tribal needs? Aristotle says ‘Man is a Social Animal’, adding to that innate nature, we come from ancestors who were part of hunter and gatherer societies. These hunters and gatherers were part of multiple groups, which stayed together not just for feeding themselves but also to protect each other from other humans and other groups. This survival instinct will always guide us to make better relationships with people we’re familiar with. This is the innate tribal need that makes us stick together in a specific society.

In marketing, brands strategize at triggering this tribal need by presenting an ‘us vs them’ argument. Showing people that you’re here to satisfy their primary goals and needs is a good way to make them get attracted to your brand. Your content can’t resonate with every single person, and that’s where your advantage arises. Staying focused on a specific group of people’s similar needs that align with your brand’s product is what your content should be about. Show your audience how you’re giving to them what they’re asking for, trigger their territorial attitude and build a community around your audience that not only makes them stick together, but also makes them feel the importance of spreading your content in their circle.

2. Make Your Content Memorable

We know, we know. How do you make your content memorable when there are more than 200 million different posts shared every day, right? The answer isn’t easy, but it’s simple: be unique. You don’t have to create new every single time, especially if it doesn’t even align with your message. But presenting an old argument in a new perspective is unique on its own. Take a trending topic, and while everyone is going one way about it, you choose to go the other. Create a new perspective, make people think differently, present the old in a new light.

Neuropsychologists have done multiple kinds of research to come up with the result that when people read new and unique information, it sticks to their memories. While they did so to come up with new ways to treat memory problems, you can use this information to make your content memorable. Be unique, be true, and make sure you understand the message you’re sending because if you don’t, there’s no use to it.

3. Present a Good Story

Most of your audience gets attracted to your brand through your Storytelling abilities. Stories elicit better emotional responses from audiences as studies show, they light up parts of the brain that are not reached by mere bullet points. Our human nature needs stories to know the meaning behind your message, your value, and your goals. And once your audience understands all these things, they can decide whether investing time, energy, and money in your brand is worth their time or not.

Show the audience your human side, let them know your story, your past mistakes, and successes, your journey to reach where you are now. Sharing a little bit of vulnerability can go a long way to create trust between you and your audience, and when your audience trusts you and thinks of you as authentic, they invest time in sharing about your story and content with people around them.

4. Stimulate Curiosity

Did anyone ever tell you that curiosity actually saved the cat from dying and provided her with the information that made her successful? No? Well, now you know. Our brains are designed to be curious because that leads to research, which leads to getting new information, which our brains thrive on. So how do you make your audience curious? By giving them off-the-top information and building anticipation for what’s to come next.

Have you ever seen movie promos? And how a new brand starts driving an audience toward it before it’s even officially introduced? Teasers. Those brands come up with mini teasers, indicating toward a bigger plan without revealing that plan. This makes the audience curious and leaves them yearning for more information. When you provide information gaps to be filled in later, there’s a higher chance your audience is going to stick to you to gain that information. And when they’re excited to know about what’s to come next, they share your content to make others equally excited. Adding teasers and creating curiosity can actually encourage your audience to spread your content further.

5. Create a Fear (Of Missing Out!)

Fear may not sound like a conventional method of marketing, but this is one of the major driving forces behind any content becoming viral. Humans are competitive, they’re always thriving to become better than everyone else. And this competitive nature is what gives rise to fear in people of missing out. Everyone is constantly trying to be the first to do something or be something. And the media uses this to their advantage by encouraging this fear further.

As a brand, you need to show people how your content is different and how many people are making use of it. No one likes being left out and hence this dislike is what will make them take action. Let people know what they’re missing out on if they don’t invest in you, sell your brand through your ads and your posts. Get people on your side, and make them take action on their own!

6. Create Aesthetic Designs

People love aesthetics. It lights up areas in their brain associated with creativity, and that makes them feel satisfied and happy. When you design posts for your pages, you need to make sure they’re aligned to satisfy your audience’s aesthetic sense. When your target audience gets attracted to your visuals, there’s a higher chance of them investing their time to read about your post.

Furthermore, the more aesthetically pleasing your designs and visuals, the better chance your posts have of getting shared. Everyone wants their feed to look good, and sharing aesthetic looking posts is one way to ensure that!

7. Provide Simplicity

The audience needs solutions, and they need them quickly. No one wants a huge set of steps and a complicated process to reach a solution. Less is more, simple is attractive! Provide simple solutions in easy words for your audience to understand and relate to. When the process is simple, it feels worthy for the audience to invest their time in. And when it’s worthy for them, they forward it for others to benefit from it too.

Humans can perform more when they’re required to exert a minimal level of energy on something. When presented with multiple different options of attaining the same goal, people tend to choose the one that requires the least amount of effort. Present them with simple alternatives to doing hard tasks, make your content adhere to the simplicity their brain requires.

8. Make the Audience Feel Important

As a marketer, you need to be aware of the fact that your audience should always be your priority. Feeling significant in any situation is one of the basic human needs, and when your audience feels significant, they’re more likely to associate themselves with your brand. Let your audience know how you need them and their support, provide them with good customer service, which is a rarity these days. Make them feel comfortable and happy. Once they’re feeling satisfied with your services, they will share your content further on their own without being asked.

9. Content Size

Contrary to popular belief, longer content has a better chance of being shared than short ones. This is because longer content provides more information to the audience, describes your message in better detail, and creates the authenticity your audience needs to make your content worthy of being read. When all these criteria are completed, people have a higher chance of sharing your content and making it viral.

10. CTA in Conclusions

If you want your audience to take action, just ask them to do so. That’s what call-to-action is for. Add CTAs to your posts to make your audience share your content. Give them incentives to do so if possible. Most bloggers on Instagram do giveaway campaigns by asking people to share their content and ask friends to follow the blogs in order to participate in the giveaways.

Don’t just ask the audience to take action, but provide them with the motivation for doing so. Offer discount offers, appreciate their efforts, give shoutouts, repost their shares of your content on your story, etc. These are good incentives to make your content go viral; getting people to share them by asking them to

11. Provide Quality Content for Free

Adopt the idea of spreading valuable content without making your audience pay their hard-earned money for it. When you provide people with value for free, it gives them a new experience and your brand a unique outlook. Many blogs provide information gaps and then ask the audience to pay in order to have the gaps filled. This may let them make money, but it also drives away potential customers from their business. When you offer a service for free, you make it more valuable and memorable for your audience. And this creates better chances for your content to get recommended among people and go viral.

While these might be pointers to keep in mind to make the content you expect to go viral, the most important part is to keep your audience in mind. What they respond to and what they dislike, their reactions, their beliefs. When the audience’s beliefs are your driving force, you won’t find it hard to become successful with your content. So go ahead, make use of these triggers in your strategies and find out if they help make your content get viral!

Mainstream Contributor

A content driven blog by marketers, for marketers.

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