Finding the secret to make a particular piece of content go viral can be tricky. There is no one-size-fits-all formula, but there are specific methodologies you can use to improve the odds of your content blowing up.

The complicated aspect of content marketing is that you can invest untold amounts of hard work and money into creating fantastic content only to receive less than optimal results. Conversely, a simple Tweet or post has the potential of spreading like wildfire.

There are many articles and infographics on the web that profess the secrets of creating viral content; but the truth is that no one knows exactly what it takes to create something that will go viral. Still, there’s a lot that you can do to create content that’s far more likely to.

In this article, we’ll take a look at what the experts have to say, and see some of the best strategies for generating content that will get you more exposure.

The Impact of Viral Content

The ability to spread your brand’s message far and wide is the end goal of any marketing campaign. The campaign’s effectiveness is measured in the results that are garnered —sales, conversions, etc. — against the number of resources used to produce and distribute your content. 

Virality is the result of social sharing, whether via websites, emails, or text messages. Sharing content online has become an essential component of modern life. According to a 2020 Psychology study on content sharing, we “share more content, from more sources, with more people, more often, and more quickly”. 

When it comes to a successful marketing campaign, the quickest and most cost-effective method of scaling and publicizing your business is to go viral. The benefits of viral content lie in your brand’s ability to capture the attention of its target audience in a finite window of time.

A classic example of a viral marketing campaign is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The campaign raised over $100 million in just eight weeks, with the number of people performing the challenge worldwide staggering at 17 million.

Before the challenge, ALS was a relatively unknown condition. With awareness came support and funding to combat the disease. 

(Source SEM Rush)

Here are the essential components of viral marketing that you can fold into your campaigns.

Components of Viral Content

Evoke the Right Emotions In Your Audience

A successful viral marketing campaign should tap into the appropriate emotions of your audience. Emotion needs to have a point and a purpose. You must avoid deactivating emotions like sadness in favor of motivating action and producing excitement.

A study titled “What Makes Online Content Viral”  by Jonah Berger and Katherine Milkman concluded that a critical factor among viral articles was found in their ability to elicit “high-arousal emotions,” including awe, excitement, or amusement. These conditions increased the likelihood that an article was shared. 

A piece’s ability to go viral is not limited to positive emotions. Articles evoking negative emotions, such as anger and anxiety, were also shared extensively. You need to compel your audience to share your content by not only evoking strong emotion in them but also the right type of feeling to fit with what you’re trying to sell.

Advertisements must take a clear position on a topic with strong statements that will allow your reader to choose a side. Resist the urge to be everything to everybody. Understanding your target audience and their beliefs will go a long way in allowing your content to snowball.

(Source: SEM Rush)

Develop content that evokes specific emotions to encourage the share 

How to Evoke These Key Emotions

Remembering that we need to elicit emotions in our audience that encourages them to take action, understanding these emotions on an even deeper level, and learning how to trigger them is our next important step.


Content that elicits awe is something remarkable, something out of the ordinary, and too fantastic not to share. It’s irresistible, and that’s why you must comment on it and show it to your friends. This can come in the form of a story, real-life event, or disputing common knowledge or long-held beliefs.


Fear is one of the biggest motivators. People find it hard to resist taking action when they get a jolt of fear. 

How can you use fear as a tool to increase the chances of your content going viral? The biggest is probably the fear of missing out, or FOMO — a well-known part of many successful sales campaigns. You can add a time component to a sale to include this emotional element or even limit the number of units you are planning to sell.


Being happy is the best! We all love to feel joy. Consider what makes people happy. It can be funny, inspiring, or anything that’s positively uplifting. 

Perhaps you can tell a personal anecdote or story from your life to trigger ‘joy’ or ‘happiness.’ Take advantage of nostalgia. It can be very motivational and moving. Tying the nostalgia in with owning your product or the use of your service is even more effective.


Similar to awe, a surprise is anything that goes against one’s expectations. A twist in your marketing or an unexpected element that causes your audience to gasp and reach for the “share” button is a winner. 

Choose the Right Type of Content

What kind of content you produce is just as important as what you say. Certain types of content lend themselves to specific emotions and, therefore, particular actions. BuzzSumo identifies four different elements that frequently occur in viral content. Using a combination of these elements will increase the likelihood of your content going viral.

(Source: Buzzsumo)

Considering these four different elements, here are a few ideas for the types of content that you could produce, with the hopes of going viral. 

Picture List Posts

If you’ve never heard of this before, chances are you’ve probably seen it. This is a collection of images that tells a story. 

This format of viral content is not limited to just beautiful photos. Take, for example, wartime exposes’ or National Geographic coverage of Afghanistan or Ethiopia. Human interest photo lists can be very significant. Try to go for surprising, thought-provoking, and visually great content – key viral elements.

Leverage the ‘Cute’ Factor

Who can resist kittens? While it’s true that cat posts have become a bit cliche, that’s because they work. 

People are drawn to cute images. If there is a way to leverage a small animal or a small human in a way that sells your product or advertises your service, take advantage of it.

Humor Can Be a Home Run

People love to laugh and share funny content. Different emotions elicit different responses, and if you think you can pull off humor, this could help your content gain major-league traction. 

Humor has a significant influence on people sharing content. Amusing posts, videos, and memes are an excellent way to leverage your brand and spread your message. Companies that are using humor to sell products include Dollar Shave Club, Purple Mattress, and Aviation Gin (featuring Ryan Reynolds).

Rapid-fire Tips for Viral Articles

After applying the lessons learned to create the foundation for your content, there are also a handful of useful tricks for developing sharable items. We’ve put together a list of the top tips we’ve come across for creating content that has the best chance of going viral. 

1) Sharing is Caring

This is a no-brainer, but it is essential to going viral. If you are omitting sharing buttons or not asking for the share, you are selling yourself short. Make it easy,  convenient, and simple. Be sure to feature sharing buttons before and after each post, in addition to asking directly for the share in your copy.

2) Skimmable Content

Write your articles or posts in a conversational form. Avoid using paragraphs with three or more sentences; if it looks like a giant block of text, trim and edit your copy. 

Today web visitors like to consume their information in small bites or ‘nuggets’. Make your information easy to skim by using bullet points, short paragraphs, and lots and lots of graphic elements and photos.

3) Rarity and Urgency

Adding a scarcity component to your content can produce an urge to consume it. The fear of missing the opportunity is a strong motivator and can be an excellent trigger to get people interested in your content. Urgency encourages people to move forward – and fast – with sharing.

4) Practicality

Does your content have a straightforward utility to it? Is your call-to-action relevant? If you can produce useful, educational, and practical content, its likelihood of being shared is much higher. 

A prime example of this is infographics. Not only are Infographics informative, but they’re attractive. There is a purpose to them, and people have an altruistic desire to share this information with others.

5) Is it Readable?

You may be delivering impactful content, but if it cannot be easily read and understood, it’s more or less worthless. Take the time to run your work through a readability test. It may seem silly, but aiming for a lower grade level means your content has a greater reach among diverse demographics. A fifth-grader can understand a high readability score of 90-100. People need to feel at ease with your content; keep it simple, keep it smart.

6) Build Credibility and Be Trustworthy

People prefer to share content from people and businesses that they find credible. You can help increase your credibility by quoting experts in your field and citing research, statistics, and sources. Also, authenticity in your marketing helps build your credibility. 

Quoting influencers and experts is also a good way to increase your chances of going viral and your trust among various communities, as they’re more likely to share your content when they’re quoted. 

Bonus Tips: Viral Videos!

When discussing viral content, it’s impossible to ignore video. However, video content doesn’t always play by the same rules as other content types, so we decided to provide you with a list of 4 important elements of viral videos.

While there is no perfect formula for creating viral videos, there are “ingredients” that you can combine to give you the best chances at creating something memorable.

  1. Visual Spectacle

You don’t need a big budget to make a compelling video. If you have time on your side, put effort into the creative and brainstorming process.

Shoot for the odd, quirky, and unexpected; don’t be easily deterred. Try until you get it right!

  1. Identifiable Content

Some people find it difficult to resonate or relate to certain items, services, or brands. It’s hard to get excited about cars, soda, or car insurance if you do not feel connected with the product. If you find yourself in this category, you need to create a theme or concept people can get behind.

Find something important to a wide variety of people and make that the focus of your video. BMW is an excellent example; they created the Ultimate Driving Experience. This element involves brand affiliation and a value proposition.

  1. Reality

People are always going to be drawn in more by fact than fiction. Red Bull has done an excellent job with this via their extreme sports coverage. Watching daredevils tempt fate is always a thrilling venture for customers safely on the other side of the screen!

Documenting real-life events is going to provide that human element that increases shareability and thus virality. 

  1. Controversy

There is always a fine line when it comes to controversial advertising. This model can stir up many emotions, and some disagree with employing these tactics at all. The bottom line is never to offend your target audience, and always be ethical with any limits you plan to push. The individuals who share this content do so because they wish to appear more provocative and empowered; think about that when developing controversial videos.

While there’s no silver bullet to make your content go viral, there are things that you can do to increase your chances greatly. Using the tips mentioned above, you may not ensure virality for your advertisements. Still, you will surely benefit through more engagement, an increase in conversion rates, and the relationship-building between you and your audience.

Looking for more tips on creating content that resonates with your audience? It starts by ensuring that you know who your audience is in the first place. See how you can strengthen your marketing campaigns by creating a customer avatar