Turn back the clock a few years, and the phrase “gone viral” had a completely different meaning in the English language. If you had heard the term a decade ago, you would have assumed there was a terrible virus that was on the verge of creating the next global pandemic. You can breathe easy. Today, the phrase refers to quotes, content, images, and videos that have been shared on the web and been met with massive reactions.
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Some web marketing efforts go viral for all the wrong reasons. A perfect example was served up by Kellogg’s UK back in 2013. In an effort to raise awareness about underprivileged children in the UK and Ireland, the company used its Twitter account to post an image of two boys enjoying a bowl of Kellogg’s Fruit Loops cereal. The campaign asked followers to retweet the image to help hungry children get a breakfast. The company was slammed for using vulnerable, hungry children to gain advertising attention and dollars.
Then there are good images that go viral. You need look no further than the rash of ice bucket challenge videos that littered social media this past summer. The most popular videos were those of celebrities participating in the challenge, as well as those who failed during the challenge in hilarious fashion. So, how can you make something that goes viral? We’ve got a few techniques to help you out.
Put in the Time
First and foremost, you need to be dedicated to the idea of surfing the web in search of viral gold. The next great viral meme or video isn’t going to just fall into your lap the minute you fire up the computer in the morning. You need to be willing to jump online constantly throughout the day in search of images, quotes, and videos that are capable of gaining mass appeal. If you aren’t willing to put in the time searching, odds are the rest of these techniques won’t help you much. Trust us, the time is worth it.
Look Far and Wide
Gawker is one of the most popular websites on the Internet. The content generated by its authors attracts millions of unique visitors each day. In an interesting slideshare presentation, the company’s top viral-content guy shared some of his personal tips for finding and generating great content. Among the greatest pieces of advice he shared was the fact that he monitors thousands of sites each day in search of new content.
He admitted to maintaining an active database of roughly 1,000 websites that he checks through on a daily basis. If you’re going to find some genuine content to start the next viral meme with, you need to cast a wide net and put in the time to surf those pages. The key to success here is adding and removing sites on a regular basis. Always be on the lookout for the next great source, and be able to recognize when a current source has simply dried up.
Assuming you have followed the two techniques above to get you started, you might have a great piece of viral content ready to unleash on the web. However, just because you created something great doesn’t mean it will go viral. There is something to be said for the timing of your content as well. There are two golden time slots during the day that offer the best performance: 9 a.m. and noon, EST. Why these specific times?
First off, at 9 a.m. EST workers up and down the eastern seaboard are arriving at their desks, largely uninterested in getting to work right away. What are they going to do instead? They are going to check in on their favorite social media sites, read blogs, and see what people are talking about to start the new day. This is the first time to send out your content.
Come noon, all those workers on the East Coast are hitting their lunch break and looking for more distractions. At the same time, workers on the West Coast are just strolling into the office and looking to do the same as their East Coast brethren did three hours earlier.
Never Say Viral
Under no circumstances should you ever tag a picture or video with viral in the name. In fact, when you are trying to promote something that you want to see go viral, don’t resort to using phrases such as “retweet to help this go viral” or “share to take this viral.” According to The Guardian, using the word viral in your post simply sounds like a “vomit bag.” People don’t want to read it and it won’t perform as well as you hope.
Appeal to Viewers on a Personal Level
The most popular viral images on the web are those that resonate with viewers. People like to share things on social media or email images to their friends that offer a reflection of who they are as a person, what they believe in, or align with causes they support. The people reading your content on the web are your publishers. If they don’t like your content, they won’t share your content. If you want an image or a video to go viral, it has to be easy for people to connect with it on a personal level.
Keep it Positive
It’s always easier to be negative about something or someone. Creating a meme or viral video with negative opinions might be easier to do, but viewers are more likely to respond to positive content than they do to negative content. When you generate content with a positive, awe-inspiring, or surprising spin to it, you are more likely to create something that goes viral. Positive content goes viral faster not because people like feeling those particular emotions, but because they feel like sharing that emotion and experience with someone else. When content creates that emotion, they feel the need to pass that warm fuzzy right on down the line.