A defining ambition for any content marketer is to have their work "go viral," reaching a huge audience through the power of social media sharing. This is a rare effect, however, and with good reason. Developing highly shareable content is a fine art, requiring a strong spark of creativity as well as a large slice of luck.
However, putting some solid basics in place will ensure your content is geared up for sharing among a wide audience, gaining hugely valuable exposure even if it doesn't quite score that one-in-a-million chance of going massively viral.
Hit a Popular Topic
This seems an obvious point, but it's one that bears emphasis: to gain significant traction and be heavily shared, content needs to be connected to a topic with widespread appeal. For example, a piece based around smartphones will tend to go further if it references Apple rather than LG or another less-popular brand, regardless of the specific nature of the material.
The more popular the topic, the more commentators, influencers, and curators there are to pick up the content and act as seed broadcasters, giving your content a vital early boost. Whatever the niche nature of your original content, always look for ways to tweak it in the direction of a wider audience.
Give it a Twist
However, content that rehashes familiar old tropes for the millionth time isn't likely to engage many readers. Although a popular topic in the wider sense is essential, there needs to be a definite element of originality that sets it apart from the herd. While going left field or complicated is a risky strategy -- most people don't like to think too hard when online -- you need to provide a twist in the tail that qualifies your content as startling, amusing, or otherwise noteworthy.
The Need for Immediacy
Social media moves at an incredibly fast pace, and for your content to receive wide attention, it needs to be understood with a single glance. Even if it's long-form content providing valuable, in-depth information, the headline or main graphic should grab the reader's attention immediately if it's to provoke a reaction and be worthy of passing on.
This need for immediacy explains in part why list-based content is so popular and widely shared: topics can be broken down into easily digestible chunks that require little concentration to consume, yet can still provide useful information or entertainment value.
Content written in dry corporate speak will falter even before it reaches the first hurdle. Above all else, the social media sphere is a place of human interaction, and this is best done on an emotional level. Know your audience, find out what makes them tick, and resonate with them by tugging at their heartstrings, appealing to their better natures, making them laugh, or even playing on their common fears and anxieties.
But Also Be Positive
However, playing on negative emotions is a risky business. There's a reason why inspiring and motivational quotes are everywhere on social media - people will usually be happier to share a positive or humorous message rather then be seen as a party pooper. Negative emotions can certainly provoke a strong reaction, but this is not usually to the benefit of your brand.
Provide Genuine Value
Some of the most viral content is entirely lightweight and succeeds on pure amusement or novelty value. However, if you chase this effect, you're almost guaranteed to miss the mark; there's simply so much of this ephemeral material out there to compete with. Content that offers genuine value will usually spread further than throwaway fluff, all else being equal, and it's also much easier to turn the resulting exposure to your marketing advantage.
Be Open Ended
Although this is not applicable in every case, some content can achieve high traction by provoking discussion, or even sparking outright controversy. If you want to go down this route, ensure that your content is somewhat open ended as well as being interesting. Aim to be a conversation starter rather than delivering the last word on your chosen topic. Many people more likely to share if they can add their own comment and feel part of the conversation.
Give It a Nudge
Lastly, quality content isn't the whole equation. Popularity feeds on itself, and people are more likely to share something that's already received a high number of likes or retweets. Whether you call it herd mentality or the power of social proof, seeding your campaign with paid advertising of some form can give sharing the kick start it needs.
It's in this area that influencer marketing can be so powerful. If you aim to have as many influencers as possible mention your content, this will create a perception of popularity which encourages further sharing - and even if the viral effect doesn't then kick in, you'll still benefit from the valuable exposure your influencers provided.
Truly viral content can often seem to come out of nowhere. While it's true that it takes a fair amount of good luck to achieve virality, and that even the best efforts can fail for no apparent reason, following these basic rules during content development will give you the best chance of being spread far and wide. It's then up to your marketing nous how you capitalize on the traffic. We at VivImage Inc. would love to be part of the creation of the content and help you in your marketing success. Contact us.