What Makes Content Go Viral?


From the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to Chewbacca Mom, we’re all familiar with “viral content.” These are the posts that get people talking, make people react, and ultimately go down in internet history. But what is it that makes something “go viral?” Why do some posts inspire us to share and discuss more than others? We’re taking a look at some of the defining characteristics of virality and how brands can leverage these techniques to create more successful content.

Studies have shown that content stimulating positive emotions is more widely shared than content eliciting negative feelings. It’s not surprising, then, that some of the most viral content on the internet are posts that make people laugh and feel good. Take Chewbacca Mom, for example. Watching Texas mother, Candace Payne’s, genuine laughter can’t help but make you crack up. With over 10 million views on YouTube, it’s the perfect example of how contagious humorous content can be. With that in mind, brands could take a stab at creating funny content of their own to get their posts in front of as many people as possible. Keep in mind though, there’s a fine line between being funny and trying too hard.
Surprising Hacks
Shock and awe is another factor that plays into the virality of content. Does your post feature a common object being used in a new or unusual way? This could be the perfect recipe to make people share your post and get them talking. Take leading social media publisher and BIGclient, First Media, for example. The videos they produce on their Blossom channel are some of the most viewed content on the internet. What makes these posts so successful? First Media transforms ordinary objects into extraordinary (and useful!) hacks. Check out this video of how to organize your closet, which is the most viral video in the history of Facebook! Another factor playing into the success of these videos? The content provides value to the viewer; not only are the hacks interesting and fun to watch, but they’re also applicable to your daily life. A sure-fire way to get more views is to make your content engaging and helpful.
Cultural Moments
Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? Chances are you do: this viral campaign raised $115 million by challenging friends and family to dump a bucket of ice over their head to raise awareness for ALS. Not only was it entertaining to see your friends reactions when the freezing water came pouring down over their heads, but it also introduced a cultural movement. It was a campaign with a positive cause, and sharing it made participants feel like they were contributing to something bigger by taking part in this poignant cultural moment. This kind of content introduces an opportunity for individuals to feel included in a broader, collective trend, and that ultimately leads to their success. Think about even something like the Cinnamon Challenge. While not quite as altruistic as the Ice Bucket Challenge, it still introduced a trend for people to participate in, and that is a powerful force. If your brand can introduce some sort of broader community within the content you produce, then you’re really onto something.
High quality, viral content has the capacity to make your brand go down in internet history and stay in the minds of consumers long after your campaign has ended. Which technique are you most interested in trying? Let us know in the comments below! And to stay up to date on all things PR, follow us on Twitter at @BIGfishPR!

BIG fish PR is an unconventional agency that helps its clients redefine their industries.