What’s in a share? We are all familiar with the term “Viral”, but not everyone truly understands what it takes for content on the web to go viral. The ultimate goal for the content you post on your social media channels should not be to just target those who are already in your network. By focusing exclusively on the people who already like your page, you are missing out on a number of opportunities to reach new users in new markets.
Content goes viral because users feel compelled to share it, whether it is a heartwarming story, a funny image or video or simply too good of a deal to pass up. Oftentimes, it is some combination of these factors and many more. Not everything that should go viral does and not everything that goes viral should have gained as much popularity as it did. Virality has just as much to do with timing as it has to do with what the content is. The one thing that they all have in common is an appeal to a wide audience.
To be totally honest, nobody really knows what will or won’t go viral. The Harlem Shake, countless heartwarming stories, and bad lip reading videos all have gone viral. There isn’t a magic formula that businesses can follow to make something go viral. However, these examples all have one thing in common: they were compelling enough to get users to share without offering any sort of reward. There are millions of users out there who are looking for great content to share! You just have to be there to provide the right content to the right personas.
Videos like the Harlem Shake go viral so quickly because of the thriving online community that supports this type of content. When the Harlem Shake first hit the internet, it was a matter of days before groups of students at universities, entire offices, friends and other groups created their own versions of the video and uploaded it to YouTube. It wasn’t just one piece of content that went viral, but an entire subgenre.
Some things that are shared on the web have less to do with strong beliefs or being able to interact with them, and more to do with just being extremely cool and creative. This Huffington Post Article shows the collection of images put together by Murad Osmann and his girlfriend traveling around the world. Instead of your traditional shots of the couple from around the globe, all of the images have her leading him by the hand from a first person perspective, compiling a number of extremely creative, beautiful images in some of the world’s most iconic locations. This collection on his Instagram account spread like wildfire and garnered countless articles, links and shares.
Internet users flock to share media that aligns with their personal beliefs. Whether it be hard-hitting journalism or a funny video that they can identify with, quality content with a social component has a high likelihood of going viral. Be careful though, because not everything goes viral for the right reasons, and can lead to a backlash from users that don’t identify as closely with your message as others.
Not every post you put out there is going to elicit thousands of likes or shares. However, you should be continually looking to create and post content that encourages this type of behavior. The more your content is shared, the more brand exposure you will have outside of your network. Too often, businesses utilize Facebook as a sales tool, when in reality it should be a tool to improve your brand awareness. If executed correctly, this will lead customers to your website and could eventually result in a sale (or whatever the primary goal of your website may be.)
In the end, having something go viral isn’t going to ultimately make or break your business or your social goals. Understanding why things go viral, however, can help you to prevent something from going disastrously wrong and hopefully point you in the right direction in regards to the types of content you should be producing.