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The Secret Formula for the Perfect Viral Share


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Feeling Good, Feeling Great

Every brand wants their content to go viral—they want millions of people to know what they have to offer to the world. Consider the most recent viral content you’ve laid eyes on and think about how it directly impacted your emotions. Did you feel awe, amusement, excitement? Studies show that the most viewable and shareable content causes these emotions in people, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for more negative emotions in the online world either.

Viral videos should have a cognitive impact and inspire people to act. Viewers like something practical, interesting, or surprising. These call people to action and inspire them to call others to action as well. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went viral very quickly due to its call to action and raised over $100 million for ALS research—it also helped that many celebrities did the challenge and challenged other celebrities as well.

Reading Is Fundamental

Many people believe that short, quick messages will capture attention. For example, two websites that espouse the short, quick message are Twitter and Vine—160 characters and seven second videos, respectively. However, people still want to read long content. 3,000 to 10,000 word articles get the most shares on average, and articles under 1,000 words get the least. That means you want to keep your content at around 2,000 words. Long-form content that gets the most shares are infographics, “top” lists, “why” posts, “what” posts, “how-to” posts and videos. Although sharing cat pictures and memes seem to get lots of shares, it’s good for a laugh more than a call to action.

Say Cheese

One of the most compelling reasons to click a link is the picture that is included with it. A link with a picture on it is far more likely to be shared on Facebook and Twitter. You can further boost your reach by including a specific thumbnail in your post. You can add these thumbnails via meta tags. To do this, place them in the <head> section of the article.

1,000,000 Ways To Get My Attention

What brings readers in better than a catchy title? List articles, or “listicles”, are amongst the most shared pieces of content on the Internet, and has helped websites such as BuzzFeed get millions and millions of visitors. For example, a title like 25 Adorable Cat Faces will generate a lot of clicks. You can also give a promise to improve the lives of the readers—such as I Made $200 A Day By Doing This. Don’t be afraid to shy away from negative titles as they can perform on equal footing as those with positive titles, such as How My Boss Ruined My Life. Appealing to emotion and the sense of self can help readers click your content more often as well.

The Final Authority

Trustworthy sources help content go viral as well. You should include a byline at the top of the article and an author bio at the bottom. This will tell whether this person has a reputation for creating the best and most engaging content—for example, if the author also writes for a big publication such as the New York Times, it will give them more credibility than one who hasn’t.

Content with a byline and an author bio has a negligible effect on Facebook, but goes a lot further on Twitter (21 more shares), LinkedIn (23 more shares) and Google+ (42 more shares). LinkedIn and Google+ are seen more as professional hubs, so a byline and author bio seem to be mandatory in those cases.

I’ve Got A Buddy Who’s An Expert

Getting the advice of experts and quoting them in your article will help your content go viral—for example, if you’re writing about computers, you can quote Bill Gates, or if you’re writing about home and interior design, you can quote Martha Stewart. Quotes from famous people (living or deceased) that tie into your content can push it towards viral status even more.

Right On Time

When do you share your content? Monday seems to be the big day for viral content on Pinterest and LinkedIn, and understandably so for LinkedIn because it’s the start of the work week. However, content on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ tend to go viral on Tuesdays. 9 am and noon on the east coast seem to be the best times of day to post content. The worst time is rush hour—at that time, many people have been staring at a computer screen for hours and just want to take a break from technology.

Dusting Off Some Old Stuff

Some things just don’t go viral for various reasons, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it again. Social shares drop off 96% in only 72 hours. However, you can bring that content back from the dead even 12 weeks after you first published it and people will still talk about it. As someone once said, Rome wasn’t built in a day, so you need to test and re-test your content to see what is working and what isn’t.

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