What Makes Content Go Viral: An Analysis

Good content gets shared. But not every good content goes viral. Viral content are posts that become crazy popular and gets rapidly circulated overnight on social media platforms.

It might be a small article from a blog, a youtube video, a powerful tweet, an Instagram post or anything that spreads through the internet like wildfire.

It gets liked and shared by millions of users and within a few hours itself, your brand draws huge attention from a range of fresh audiences which would be difficult for you to gain organically.

It is the perfect way to create a buzz for your business.

What Makes Content Go Viral

And if you are the author of the post, you can hit stardom in no time, for what you have just created.

The reason behind what makes content go viral can differ widely. Experts have analyzed such posts and come up with different opinions.

Let’s have a look at what they have to say.

What makes content go viral?

what makes content go viral

Although it is not very clear, what makes a specific post go viral, many suggest that most viral content has a few things in common.

Here are some of them. These posts have one or more of the following traits. They –

  • entertains people
  • incites humor
  • evokes wonder
  • appeal to the individualistic culture
  • are quirky, off-center or distinctively atypical in nature

While these are the most commonly shared traits of viral content you will also see that

  • high-quality content
  • well-researched content
  • content from trusted sources

bagging a good rank on the viral content list.

These might be in the form of

  • written content
  • videos
  • listicles
  • infographics etc

Basically, people love content that is engaging, resourceful, quick in imparting the message, visually appealing and of course off-beat in nature.

But not everyone can create viral content. As Steve Rayson from Buzzsumo rightly says ‘Viral posts are outliers. They are not the norm; they are exceptional’.

Popular Viral Content Trend So Far

According to Steve Rayson from Buzz Sumo, 2016 saw the craziest trends in terms of social sharing. Of all other platforms, the top viral content got the most number of shares on Facebook followed by Pinterest. Other popular platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter saw a comparatively lower number of shares.

2017 was no different. Like the previous year, in 2017 too, Facebook had the most viral content shared compared to other platforms.

This means that of all the social media platform the highest chances for your posts to go viral is probably Facebook. It has been observed that FB users fondly shares entertaining and offbeat content even though it is not published directly on the platform.

Another very fascinating thing that can be observed from analyzing the past years, is that music videos can go crazy viral in a matter of hours.

It’s obvious that we cannot compare a popular pop star’s video with that of a normal person. The former is sure to get more shares in much lesser time.

It, therefore, makes no sense to bring music videos into account. Let us check out what are the other type of content that became popular in the last two years.

Here’s a screenshot from the website Ignite My Company that shows the most socially shared posts in 2016.

Image: Ignite My Company

This is the record that BuzzSumo presented in December 2017

what makes content go viral
Image: Buzzsumo

So what do you infer from the above records?

The first thing that struck me was the growing fondness for videos over written content. If we look back at the changing trends of content popularity, there is no doubt that videos have quickly taken over the internet.

And why not? It helps you process things much faster than written texts.

Now, look at the above posts carefully. In the first image,  the post with the highest number of shares is New Alzheimer’s Treatment Fully Restores Memory Function.

The positive message in the post that has been strongly backed by scientific findings is what appealed to its readers. Besides, it talks about a topic that many people encounter in their lives.

The next post is a Quiz designed for FB users and like always it was readily accepted and liked by people with a hopping 3.4M shares. This is not a normal everyday kind of quiz.

It has to do more with a personality trait that is not specific to certain type of people but is common in general. And people did show interest in finding out about this hidden side.

The list also had two open letters which are powerful opinion pieces intended to convey a strong message.

The 3rd, 5th, 7th and 8th in the list were more into talking about normal things in life. They were light reads and fun posts and the title was strong enough to arouse curiosity amongst its readers.

Let us now look at what trended in 2017.

This year was more into videos. The graph showed a high for practical hack videos that made life simpler and easier. People loved the posts that gave them clever ideas about how to go clutter free, or how to have a good day. Recipe and clothing hacks also appeared on the list.

Basically, anything that made people appear smarter appealed to them and got the most interactions. These videos were short, quick-witted and delightful.

It had 2 music videos and 2 heartwarming videos too on the list.

What Type Of Content Should Work In 2018

what makes content go viral

I came across a post by Steve Rayson where he writes about the Buzzsumo Research Report on what kind of content is expected to go viral 2018. It says that content approach that was used 3 years ago is no more effective in the current times.

Click bait styled headlines and listicle form peculiar posts that earlier got majorly viral within hours of being published are no longer as compelling as it used to be.

Although the vagueness around what might appeal to your audience still persist, there are certain types of post that should not fail you.

It might not be on the top 10 list of Buzzsumo but something like a 12K share or so is not bad either than having below 100 shares on your post.

Now, this does not guarantee that the list below will get you 12k hits. But yes research shows that these type of content are more prone to being liked and shared by people. Obviously, the way you present it will also have a huge impact.

So let’s check out our list of topics that might possibly get you more shares this year.

  • Practical tutorial type short span videos
  • Success stories of real and inspiring people
  • Strong opinion pieces
  • Smart Animal and Baby videos
  • Well researched, detailed, resourceful and problem-solving content
  • Supportive and heart touching content
  • Secrets of Life
  • Videos showing amazing things people can do that most of us cannot

These are just a few. There can be tons of other topics that might work out really well.

If we compare the top posts of 2016 and 2017, we can clearly say that there was a huge change in the trend. One reason for this could be that the volume of published content has seen a tremendous increase. As a result, there is content saturation in these topic areas.

So unless you create something that is implicitly unusual and quirky this year, your content is less likely to go viral. However, if you are one of those giants who has already gained popularity from publishing original and authoritative content, then there is not much to fear about.

The 2018 social media users are also seen receiving partisan political or tribal content with warm hearts. Also, there is a growth in content sharing in platforms like LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Wrapping Up

As I have already mentioned, Viral content are outliners. And not everyone can create such content. The only thing that you can do to find your content on the list of top shared content is to think out of the box. If you can do that, success is not far away.

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