Propelling Your Content: How to Go Viral
In 2011, YouTube's trends manager was giving a Ted Talk. His name is Kevin Allocca. He said only a tiny fraction of Youtube's vast selection of videos was getting more than a million views. A million views isn't what qualifies content as "viral." In fact, one of the most viral videos we know of reached nearly 5 million views in a couple of weeks. That video was the famous "Double Rainbow."
In 2010, when Double Rainbow was uploaded, it was easier to go viral. Today, the fraction of content, video, or text that can be considered "viral" is smaller than it used to be. That is in part due to the rise of promoted content. However, there are still some things you can do to get the most out of your content without paying to distribute it.
It has long been known that getting referenced, mentioned and linked to is something to aim for if you want to maximize the reach of a piece of content. That's why Allocca discusses tastemakers in his Ted Talk. He mentions a few examples of tastemakers boosting social shares. For example, Double Rainbow's share rate rose dramatically when late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel played the video on his show. Jimmy is a comedic tastemaker. Be creative to find the right tastemaker for you and your brand. Ask him or her to tweet you, share you, write about you, etc. or try to create content that's so good it's guaranteed to be shared. We'll give you a few tips, coming up.
Be Unexpected and Surprising
There's nothing like surprise to really get people to engage. If you're writing content, make the title as catchy as you can without misrepresenting the article's purpose. For videos, include subtitles and make sure the first few seconds of the video are as attention-grabbing as possible. If there's a "twist" or an unexpected event in your content, it's more likely to be shared. Nobody expected Double Rainbow man to react the way he did. We'd never even imagined someone acting that way. That's why he's so shareable! For tips on how to grab attention, take a look at this article (ads and content can both employ the tactics in it).
Content marketers often ask readers to share their comments about a particular post. That's one way to boost your engagement and sharing game. But when your content is something people want to be a part of, you've got yourself a potentially viral thing.
In his Ted Talk, Allocca talks about Rebecca Black's "Friday" music video, which is a comically straightforward, non-rhyming tribute to the last day in the work week. Lots of video creators parodied it. There was a song for every day of the week in no time, after it was released. With every share of these parodies, the original "Friday" song was referenced, increasing its reach.
Here's another example. Think about how many caring gals and fellows participated in "the ice bucket challenge." Sure, it was a charity thing but it sure did generate a lot of awareness.
Use Facebook (and other Social Media)
Facebook is still the best social media platform for sharing content. Make sure you share your content on Facebook. It won't hurt to share it on other platforms but Facebook still dominates the internet in terms of shares. Post your stuff in any relevant groups to increase your chances of going viral.
Surprise is one emotion you could aim for but there are many more emotions you might try to coax out of your viewers. Generally, positive emotions are much more beneficial than negative ones. Aim for awe and "awww." Appeal to the pride, hope and compassion in people if it helps promote your brand or cause. You can aim for negative emotions if you want. They tend to work but we think people are starting to ignore them the same way we all started ignoring banner ads.
Offer Something Valuable
Offer something nobody knows yet. It could be news but please don't publish fake news (i.e. lies). It could be a method of doing something or a set of instructions nobody has figured out. It could even be a freebie sent in the mail. Anything of value will help you get the viral ball rolling.
Keep in mind that all of these things, together, still may not give your content the propulsion it needs to go viral. Sometimes it just doesn't work out. Moreover, sometimes going viral really doesn't help you achieve your goals. Somehow, you have to make your brand fit into the message or at least fit your logo into the ad while you've got everyone's attention. Think about what you want to achieve and try your best to make sure your goals will be met.
Now that you have the know-how, give it a shot. Stay creative and have fun with it. If it's not fun or interesting to you, it probably won't be fun or interesting to many others.
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