Mastering the art of knowing what is viral and why is a fascinating undertaking. Knowing exactly the twists and turns it takes to spread is even more interesting. But, what spreads more — images, great articles, or videos? The answer is that images tend to be more popular, but the spread of various types of content depends heavily on the particular medium. Text tweets can do very well on Twitter, while a good vertical photo can do miracles on Google Plus.
Appeal to the general public
One thing to understand about viral content is that is needs to appeal to the general public. If you have a post about widgets, only people who like widgets will share that post. The people they share it with will not likely enjoy widgets which means the sharing will end right there and the post will not go viral.
Where does content spread?
Viral content can be spread on blogs, forums, social networks, web sites, and company intranets.
What types of posts go viral?
Popular images might make a point, tell a quick story, or appeal to people on an emotional level. Being funny or entertaining generally helps. But, your image or post needs to appeal to the masses. It could be a breath taking photo, or something that makes you start laughing at first glance. Or it could be something really interesting.
Integrating industry specific with viral themes
One technique that sophisticated marketers use these days is to integrate popular themes into industry specific blog entries. If you are writing about widgets, you could write about how your puppies are happy the minute they see a widget, or how you love enjoying a widget with your morning mocha. You would be surprised at how powerful pets and coffee are in social media.
Tracking the viral flow
Once an image goes viral, it is difficult to track how it spread. It might be easier to follow the expansion of a particular post on a particular network like Twitter for example. For an image to go viral, it needs to be published by a particular account. Then, at least one of the accounts following that account need to share the content again. The reason why even the best content out there rarely goes viral is:
What can go wrong
(1) The account posting doesn’t have many followers, or doesn’t have many active followers
(2) At any particular moment in time, less than 1% of your Twitter followers are on Twitter and will have the chance to perhaps see your post.
(3) If you do get shared, the follower who shared your post may not have that many followers. If you have 10,000 followers, and only one shares your post and that one has only 10 followers, your post will not get seen.
(4) If you do get shared, but the people following the people who follow you don’t find your post interesting because they are in a different industry or have different interests, there goes your virality!
(5) You posted your post at the wrong time of the day
(6) Group consciousness would have liked your post in 2011, but not in 2015 for some unknown reason.
To really go viral, you need to attract the attention of what Vegas casinos call “Whales.” You need a few really huge accounts to retweet you, or at least a lot of somewhat large accounts. That way the message has a chance to spread, and keep spreading. You need a really hot post, and a lot of luck too. Sometimes a hot post will spread like crazy. Then, it will die down. Post the same thing a month later, and nobody is interested. My suggestion — pray to the viral gods — put your destiny in their hands.