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What makes content go viral?

what makes content go viral?

It's every content marketer's dream: to create content so epic that people simply can't help but share it. It spreads like wildfire, getting your brand in front of millions of people who willingly promote it - free of charge. Of course, you may feel your product or service just isn't exciting enough to achieve such widespread appeal. But the science behind viral content can be applied to any business, making your marketing more engaging.

This post is part of a series on Viral Marketing. Make sure you read the other posts:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Evoke emotions

Unsurprisingly, content that evokes a powerful emotional response is more likely to be shared. The stronger the emotional response, the more actively it tends to be shared.

And different emotions influence how likely it is to be shared. Content that inspires joy, for example, is way more likely to be shared than content that inspires sadness. Content tool Buzzsumo (really useful for finding out what's popular on social media) did an analysis of the 10,000 most shared articles cross the web, assigning each to a particular emotion.

Of these 10,000 articles, the distribution of emotions was as follows:


most-popular-emotions-for-viral-content Percentage of 10,000 most shared articles by emotional category


As you can see, awe-inspiring content is the most likely to be shared: 25% of the 10,000 most shared articles fell into this category.

This graphic also reveals another general trend with viral content: positive content is more viral than negative content.

And though not every business can get away with funny marketing (imagine an IBM or a Rolls Royce creating something like this), there are plenty of positive emotions that more serious businesses can tap into.

Include images

The same Buzzsumo research also found that articles with at least one image are more likely to be shared:


viral content average number of shares Average number of shares for articles with or without images


Use data and statistics effectively

- especially in headlines. No one gets excited about a generic post like 'How to generate sales leads'.

But something like 'How I generated 149 new leads in 3 hours' suddenly sounds more appealing. And, because there's data, more credible.

The more specific your stats are the better. Did you know, for example, that Ebay sellers who advertise products with prices ending in 00 receive 8% lower offers than those who list at more specific price?

And nearly every business will have these kinds of numbers on which to base content. Manufacturer of energy saving lighbulbs? What about, 'How one small change saved £9343.91 in utilities' ?

Headlines like these naturally gain readers' curiosity as well, making them more likely to click.

Long form > short form

It's a trick Neil Patel used to generate $100,000 a month from a brand new blog within 12 months.

But it's not just better for SEO. The Buzzsumo analysis also shows that longer articles are more likely to be shared:

viral content shares by Content Length

It seems claims that the internet was going to result in humans with lower attention spans than goldfish were exagerated. People still enjoy engaging with longer, more in-depth, content and are far more likely to share it on social media (and email too).

Viral content for business

The truth is no matter how closely you follow these rules, you're unlikely to create the next Gangnam Style or Charlie Bit My Finger. Content about insulation or accounting software just doesn't have the same kind of mass appeal.

But that's not to say it's not worthwhile learning from viral hits.

A building materials manufacturer could well inspire fear by highlighting the dangers of sub standard materials. An interior design firm could inspire awe with breathtaking photos of their work.

Data and statistics could form the basis of a case study for en engineering company. Long form copy could make it the most detailed resource on the web.

There's a reason why some things goes viral. Tap into these common features and see how far your content spreads!

If you'd like to find out more about our content marketing services, get in touch on 01202 788333 or


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