The 3 Secrets to Making Your Marketing Content Go Viral, Backed by Research

It’s no wonder that marketers are, shall we say, a little obsessed with finding the secret formula to making their content go viral – after all, the more eyes that land on that content, the better, and viral content can reach millions in a very short period of time. If you do a Google search for “how to make content go viral,” you’ll see that a slew of major online publications have written pieces on the subject, from The Huffington Post to Mashable. Even Scientific American has gotten in on the act, performing research studies to determine just what exactly it is that triggers a viral sharing craze.

As pretty obsessive marketers ourselves, we comb through every new piece of research on the subject of going viral – so we thought, why not compile everything we know from our own experience and from our research, and share it with you?

So here you have it – the three ultimate secrets to making your marketing content go viral, backed by scientific research!

1. Know your audience.

The most important key to making a piece of content take off is to make sure that it’s targeting the right people in the right way. Who is your company’s target audience, and what makes them tick? You can create an amazing blog post or video that goes viral instantly and is seen by millions – but if none of those millions are your potential customers, then it was all a waste of time.

Once you know who you’re targeting, you’ll want to think about what sort of content will appeal to them. In her book, The Zen of Social Media Marketing, Shama explains how people use social media to share the interests that define them and make up their identity. It’s not about narcissism – it’s about connecting with other people. She uses the example of a kindergartner telling a classmate, “I like blue crayons. Which crayons do you like?” It’s about sharing your own likes and dislikes in order to connect with others who have similar interests.

So the content that people share on social media is content that fits their identity, and, yes, content that makes them look good. Of course we all want to put our best foot forward in a public forum like social media. Someone who sees himself first and foremost as a successful businessman might share productivity tips or financial advice with their network. Someone else might share workout moves and healthy recipes – or funny posts by mommy bloggers and touching mother-child videos. The key to getting your content shared on a viral level is to create content that speaks to your audience’s identity and makes them look good, too.

2. Get the technical details right.

Based on research, there are certain technical things you can do to increase the chances that your content will go viral. These are important regardless of your topic and your audience. Long blog posts and articles tend to get shared more often than shorter ones – and the longer, the better – 3,000 to 10,000 word pieces do best. This chart from Buzzsumo shows the breakdown:


After all, if you’re sharing advice or information with friends, more in-depth pieces are bound to be more helpful than shorter, more surface-level ones.

Images are also essential to viral content, whether that means adding images to a blog post or creating an infographic. Without images to catch the eye on social media, there’s no hope it’ll be shared often enough to go viral. Videos have the same effect, as evidenced by the disproportionate number of viral videos created.

Certain types of content get shared on social media more often. List posts are incredibly popular, especially ones that contain ten items. Quizzes are also a big hit. And finally, sharing your content early in the week, on a Monday or Tuesday, will help it get more shares than posting it later in the week. Get the details right so your content has the best chance of going viral.

3. Speak to people’s emotions.

Think back to the last piece of content you personally shared with your connections on social media. I’ll bet it was something that either made you say wow, or made you laugh.

Feeling an emotional connection with content makes it personal, and prompts people to share much more powerfully than something dry and factual. But it can’t be just any emotional connection – you have to tap into the right feelings to get that viral sharing started.

In studies, sadness and fear didn’t inspire people to share – but awe and humor did. Here’s Buzzsumo’s chart with the exact percentages:


So whether you share a story that makes your audience say, Oh, wow, you’ve got to see this! or Oh my gosh, this is hilarious, look!, the important thing is to get them emotionally involved.

If you keep these 3 secrets in mind as you create content, then you just might have a viral hit on your hands. Knowing your audience, getting the technical details right, and tapping into certain emotions have all been scientifically proven to boost your chances exponentially. Of course, if you don’t have the time to dot all these i’s and cross all these t’s in your content, you could also call an experienced digital marketing agency to help. Contact us today to discuss how we can make your next piece of marketing content go viral.


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