What’s the Secret to Viral Content?

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In a sea of content, it’s easy to drown.

This is a hard truth we content creators face every day. And we do. With steely determination and hope glimmering in our eyes. Why? Because we know there are anomalies. Pieces of content that not only skim atop the digital ocean, but rather defy gravity, floating high above the rest. This type of content has gone ‘viral’.

The first step towards going viral is to have your own channel to publish content through online.

If you don’t yet have your own online channel, attend one of our Live Demos to see how you can launch your own channel and set yourself up for publishing your content to a large audience.

Once you have your channel launched, you can now endeavor to publish your content using the steps covered below to give it an edge for higher-engagement and going ‘viral’.

“Viral” is a strong term made even stronger by recent events in online trends. Let’s define it so we can identify the area we need to focus on. I’m going to skip the culturally acceptable standard which is Wikipedia. You can find that later if needed. The heart of the meaning is this: Viral Content is a communication that becomes popular by being shared rapidly and widely across different communication channels by a large audience.

This is the viral process. It is what separates the anomalies in the sky from the vast ocean in our analogy.

Sharing is obviously the key here.

Major sharing. But what prompts such a response from the audience? We are talking about some seriously motivating factors here. Well friend’s, we’ve got the answers and we’ve backed it up with science. Science rocks!

When creating content with the potential to go viral, your goal is to initiate a response in the audience. Like the person watching your video for example. And nothing gets people to respond better than…

<strong>their emotions<strong>

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Emotion is king!

When trying to get people to act, emotion is king. On top of that, emotions have been shown to be contagious. When we care, we share. We can use this to our advantage.

In a 2011 paper in Psychological Science, Berger argues the most important factor in content transmission is physiological arousal: Emotions that increase arousal, like anxiety and amusement, will be more effective than low-arousal emotions like sadness and contentment. Particularly positive emotions.

“People share things they have strong emotional reactions to, especially strong positive reactions.”

Rosanna Guadagno, a social psychologist at the University of Texas in Dallas, told the Times.

Frac.tl conducted a study listing the top 10 emotions that are most likely to become viral:

  • Amusement
  • Interest
  • Surprise
  • Happiness
  • Delight
  • Pleasure
  • Joy
  • Hope
  • Affection
  • Excitement

Of course, negative emotion can work too. We see this constantly displayed by the nightly news.

  • Fear: Content that warns and increases awareness has more chances to become viral.
  • Sadness: A sad video can become viral because people empathize with a certain story and want others to empathize as well to increase awareness or show admiration.
  • Anger: Content that makes people angry is more likely to be shared as people are inclined to express their outrage on a given topic and want others to join their ranks.
  • Disgust: Disgusting pieces can play either the “so bad it’s good” humorous game or the “warning, this is bad” game.

I love the fact that positive emotions share better than negative ones!


This is the new and unique. You know, shiny things! Novelty is a powerful motivator to get people to act as you are about to find out.

I live in Texas. Driving to another city is often filled with mundane views. Fields and livestock mostly. For miles. It’s not story worthy in the slightest. But lets say you were with me on one of these trips. We are driving a particularly long stretch, listening to some music, as you stare out the window. Suddenly, among a heard of cattle huddled by the fence line, you notice a bright blue cow. Yes, a bright blue cow!

Imagine the result’s of such an event. You would not simply let that pass on by. You would shoot up, crane your neck, and yell to get my attention. Now I’m trying to see what the commotion is about. You would convince me to turn around. There would be picture taking and phone calls to friends. Even telling the gas station attendant on our next stop. Viral content evokes the same kind of response.

Neuroscience researchers found some time ago that we have a region in the mid-brain responsible for this behavior, regulating motivation and reward processing by managing our dopamine levels. This area is what responds to novelty in our lives.

In other words, when your brain stumbles upon a new idea or piece of content it floods you with dopamine, making you feel rewarded and compelled to search for more. Even an old topic can have a new or unique light shine upon it. If you want people to share your content, make sure its a “blue cow” and not a brown one.


No matter how relevant your content is, people will only spend their time on content that catches their attention. This means you must be intriguing. This is not about tricking your audience. Consider what knowledge your audiences wants but does not have. Make sure to create useful, quality content containing this knowledge. Then tell them that your content has this knowledge in a compelling way. Your guaranteed to pique their curiosity.

People share content that fills the gap between what they know and what they want to know. This is why “How To” videos do so well. Fiction can also fill a knowledge gap. Whether its a humorous perspective or a horrifying experience. So offer your audience the chance of filling this gap with your content. They will feel motivated to share it with others who can learn it too.

Likewise, use this aspect to create catchy headlines. Some company’s will create 30 or more headlines and pick the one that that invokes the most curiosity. While I don’t think you necessarily need to do this, it does underline it’s importance. You should not neglect this.

Now, a re-cap. Make sure to ask yourself these questions when creating your next piece of content:

First and foremost, remember, emotion is king. Think about the emotions it will invoke.

  • Are they the kind of emotions that will encourage others to share your content?
  • Is there something you can change to strengthen the emotion?
  • Or alter it into a more shareable emotion?

What about the content’s novelty? Utilize the novelty of your content to really get them interested!

  • Is your content a “blue” or brown cow?
  • Is your perspective new or unique? Can you strengthen that?
  • Is there new information on the topic?
  • If its old content, can you modernize it? (Remember when DiCaprio stared in ‘Romeo & Juliette’?)

Check your content for the knowledge gaps you’ll be filling for your audience.

  • What knowledge will your audience walk away with after consuming your content?
  • Are you providing useful, relevant and actionable content in an intriguing way?
  • Are you hanging that knowledge like a carrot in your headline?

A note on quality.

This was quite a few years ago so I can promise you that it’s even more important today. According to The Wall Street Journal, 9 of the top 10 most viral videos on YouTube in 2012 were created by professional producers. If you’re just starting out and don’t have a big budget, don’t stress too much. We’ll have more posts providing awesome budget friendly tips and tricks to “up” your production value, so stay tuned for notifications!

Now you have the keys.

If you create content with the audience’s emotions, novelty, and curiosity in mind, you will be creating the kind of content that is ready to go viral. If you want more information on building an audience to share your content with and the best tools to get your content to them, follow the link below.

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