Social media is full of people sharing relevant and resonating content. Sometimes, millions of people share a single content piece, making it go viral. Anything can go viral. Anything from videos, quizzes, and memes can create interest and value for viewers, making social content extremely shareable. “Going viral” has become a pinnacle of social media success, but what truly makes viral-worthy content? 

First, what defines viral content?

Content is considered “viral” when it receives intense, massive attention and is rapidly spread by users. Often, this spread first occurs on social media and is then picked up by other mass media platforms, such as morning news shows. On your personal feeds, it’s nearly guaranteed that you’ve seen viral content – think of that video you saw five different friends share across three different platforms yesterday. That’s content that has gone viral. 

Going viral 

For content to go viral on social media, it has to do something for the viewer. Like a job of sorts, content needs to serve a purpose, whether that is to make someone laugh or even cry, the purpose is vital. Ultimately, people want to feel connected to something. They want to share something that touched them or made them laugh or cry. People want to experience and learn, and when they have, users will share the content (in an attempt to share the emotional connection) with their networks. This sharing of experience leads to millions of retweets, reshares, and views. 

Virality boils down to human emotion

For years, marketers and psychologists have studied what “makes” viral content, and the secret ingredient is simple: human emotion. All viral content seems to have the following three common threads.

1 People want to connect

Viewers like to participate and feel connected. For video content, people are often watching in anticipation for something to happen, and this anticipation is heightened when viewers are emotionally invested in the video’s content. When people identify with the content, with a “this is me” mentality, they are more likely to share. We are drawn to content we relate to, and sharing this content connects us with both friends and strangers who also identify with the viral content. 

2 People want to feel moved

Content that evokes powerful emotions builds a deeper connection with viewers and makes the piece more sharable. Consider watching The Dodo’s Facebook videos of animals overcoming struggles – as a viewer you’re emotionally invested and moved by the animal’s struggle and triumph; thus, you’re inclined to share. By igniting emotions like amusement, surprise, affection, joy, hope, pleasure, nostalgia, and excitement, people become more eager to share the content. 

3 People want to participate and learn

This element is what can make online quizzes and viral challenges so popular. People are intrigued by content that can teach them about themselves or the world around them. Whether it is something like BuzzFeed quizzes (i.e., “What City You Should Actually Live In” or “What Dog Breed Are You?”), or the standing broom challenge, activities engage and fascinate people. While this concept considers the Information Gap Theory, that people will engage with content that closes the gap between things they already know and things they want to know, it also channels human instinct. At any age, humans instinctively want to be active or participating with the larger group. Challenges and quizzes leverage FOMO and our need to fit in. 

We can study viral content to try to understand why something is so popular, but GROWL knows that intentionally building viral content can be difficult. It is essential to first know your audience, who they are, what they engage with, and connect to those things. If your goal is to create shareable content, start with research, learn about your audience and their needs. Look at your competitors and your role models to help give you inspiration and direction. Then, start to brainstorm ideas for content that fit the needs of your audience. Leverage social intelligence and build content that serves a purpose, whether that’s making them laugh, teaching something, or stirring up nostalgia.

Start with a purpose, have a clear intention for your content, then start to fill it in with other elements that make shareable content interesting and infectious. Think about the needs and emotions of your audience when building content, and that will get you one step closer to achieving virality. But remember, ultimate virality is dependent on the user. 

Need help building a content strategy? Contact GROWL today!

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