The Six Elements That Make Viral Content [Infographic & Insights]

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Great content not only helps with search engine optimization, it also helps a lot with other things such as engagement.

Furthermore, things like engagement (the interaction of readers with content by doing actions such as commenting and sharing through social media) also help in search engine optimization. It’s a cycle.

More than just telling search engines that these are the topics your site is centered on based on your content’s keywords, engagement tells search engines that readers find enough insight in your content that it urged them to say their thoughts and share it with their network who they think will also find it interesting or useful.

Apart from this, great content builds trust between you and your audience while simultaneously earning you more followers and ensuring more and more people see your brand and hear what you have to say.

This is why we here at Social Barrel cannot overemphasize the importance of great content.

It takes the concerted effort of a great technical team and a great creative team of writers and designers to make great content. Insightful thinking and a genuine desire to help also adds a lot to the process.

What, then, does it take to create great content that goes viral? A few pointers to help you with that question are discussed in this infographic we have today.

This infographic was made by WhoIsHostingThis inspired by Jonah Berger who wrote the book Contagious: Why Things Catch On.

Viral, viral content, content marketing,

“It’s no secret that relevant and valuable content can help raise brand awareness and exposure,” the infographic begins.

It then mentions one of the problems that content producers face: that is, there is a massive amount of content already out there and more is being produced every single day.

The result of this is that “far too much great content gets unnoticed,” the infographic notes. The infographic then goes on to present what makes content go viral.

According to this, emotion is the key to viral content.

There are three emotions listed here which drive viral psychology: Anger and Sadness (which are listed as negative emotions) and Awe (which is listed as a positive emotion).

The secret to going viral is to evoke more emotion as more emotion evoked means a greater chance of going viral, the infographic suggests.

High-energy content drives ‘social transmission’,” the infographic stresses.

Why do people share content that are evoke emotion from them? It’s because this may help people make sense of their personal experiences, reduce dissonance (see Cognitive Dissonance), or deepen social connections.

According to Berger and Katherine Milkman, an emotion equals to an additional 2.9 hours on the content. That’s a lot more time and with a lot more time spent on a particular content, you’re assured a person would have a better understanding of what the content says. More time on a particular content also heightens the chance that people engage with it.

Apart from setting off emotions, people tend to share great content because if content is useful, interesting and surprising, the people sharing it also get a boost to their reputations by sharing the content to their networks.

Meanwhile, the next segment of the infographic deals with how content evokes emotion.

The first factor here is the level of interest and speed of interest piqued.

“On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest,” the infographic notes. “Interest and its interaction with other emotions influences all other mental processes.”

Headlines and summaries, therefore, should quickly catch the attention of the reader. See examples of headlines that are interesting below as enumerated by the infographic.

The next factor here is the speed of emotional activation.

We’ve mentioned earlier that emotion is the key to viral content. This tip says that emotional activation should come fast enough to catch and retain reader interest.

“Visual, easy-to-understand and consume content is generally the most viral because it communicates its strong emotional impact within the first few seconds of viewing,” the infographic notes.

Time is really of the essence as it says here that users have time to read just about 28 percent of the words during an average visit. As for the impact of videos, the infographic cites this: 40 of the top 50 posts of all time on Reddit are either images or videos.

However, all posts should not be really, really short.

The next tip, which is length of content, reveals that researchers suggest that longer articles tend to be shared far more often because they are about more engaging topics.

Therefore, it is not solely about the length, but really what the content has to say. Just be sure to craft a catchy headline. Visual material to supplement the content is also very helpful.

The next tip is about content topic.

As an example, the infographic cites a study done by The New York Times. It says that 30 percent of articles on the most emailed list are on science-related topics.

This does not mean, however, that your site or blog should post content that are all related to science. Learn the topic that is most interesting to your target audience and tweak your posts to match those topics.

The next tip is about the amount of user engagement.

The infographic says that people love to talk about themselves. 40 percent of face-to-face communication is about the self and over 80 percent of social media shares are self-focused.

What does this have to do with creating great content then?

A takeaway we can get from this is that content should be relatable to your target audience. Does your content evoke thoughts that people can relate to their own selves, characters or experiences?

The last tip about evoking emotion deals with the type of emotions evoked.

The infographic cites here a study done by Moz about what made successful “visual” content go viral.

The top 5 emotions evoked by viral visual content, the study found, are: amusement, interest, surprise, happiness, and delight. The bottom 5 emotions evoked are: anger, politeness, frustration, doubt and embarrassment. However, this is not to say that those bottom five emotions cannot fuel virality. For certain instances, they can.

At last we come to the 6 insider secrets to viral content or as the infographic says, Jonah Berger’s 6 drivers that shape viral content.

These divers can be easily memorized using the mnemonic STEPPS.

1. For S we have Social Currency. This is the peer popularity of the idea.

People, the infographic says, like to talk about things that make them look good. These may not necessarily be all positive things. A negative issue can also become viral because sharing and discussing it make people appear as insightful and socially current to their network.

According to this, “Give your audience a way to look good, feel special, or like an insider so they’ll tell others and spread the word about you along the way.”

The great thing about this driver is that it can greatly reduce your spending on marketing.

“Many brands that have leveraged the power of social currency have not invested in advertising,” the infographic notes. Instead, “they rely on word of mouth after offering exclusivity to a select group of influencers.”

2. For T, we have Triggers.

These are daily reminders of the idea or product.

“Triggers have a big impact on human behavior,” this notes. “They shape the choices we make, the things we talk about, and the products we buy.”

“Linking you product or idea to prevalent triggers can help your own initiatives succeed,” it adds.

What can be triggers? These vary for the types of audience you target. Find a way to link your product or idea (and consequently your content) to an ideal or principle your target audience feels strongly about.

3. For E, we have Emotion.

This is how much you inspire a deep emotional reaction because of your content.

As we have discussed above, emotion plays a very key role in making people engage with your content.

“The key to evoking emotions with content is about arousal,” the infographic notes. “The degree to which different emotions activate us or fire us up is the level of arousal.”

People are more likely to share content that evoked emotion, whether those be positive or negative emotions. Remember that people like to share things that they feel strongly about.

4. The first P in STEPPS is Public.

This is observability or the high visibility of a product which is what essentially sells it.

This has to do with branding. According to the infographic, “Using logos, colors, and other design elements to make a product more public facilitates product adoption and increases the chance that more people find out about your product or idea.”

Aim for people instantly recognizing a product of yours just based on its look. Extending this to content, make sure you brand your content. Once you gain the trust of the people, having a consistent look and feel for your content facilitates faster sharing since people already know that this is your content based on consistent branding.

As an example, the infographic says, “The famous Macintosh Apple logo used to face the user when the laptop was closed. Steve Jobs realized that while this helped the user figure out which was to open the laptop, when they did, the logo was upside down for everyone else to see.” Inverting the logo made it more public.

5. The second P is Practical Value.

This has to do with people wanting to share useful information.

“The more useful a piece of information is, the more it will be shared on social media,” the infographic says.

While this is really true, we must add that not only useful content gets to go viral over the internet. Entertaining content – that is, content that has great value in terms of entertaining its audience – also get to go viral. Entertainment may be funny content and the like.

Nonetheless, for regular content updates to your site, focus on useful content.

“Discounts, travel recommendations, or articles about the best sunscreen to use all get around because they’re helpful,” the infographic notes. “Highlight incredible deals or useful tips and more people will pass it on.”

6. The last ingredient of viral content is S for Storytelling.

According to this, “A narrative surrounding the idea or product provides stickiness.”

“Stories are the way of making sense of things where we don’t have facts,” this says. “People will talk about a product or brand if it’s part of a broader narrative.”

This may mean that your product or brand will benefit from being connected to a larger picture. What story can your product, brand or organization be a part of?

Furthermore, we here at Social Barrel would like to say that part of Storytelling is how you package your content. This includes design and presentation. Always remember that people like visually-appealing material. It does not matter if your content is all text, great presentation can mean as simple as a good layout.

Read the infographic below.

Viral, viral content, content marketing,


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Author: Solon Harmony Dolor

A passion for technology and journalism makes this upcoming writer very interested in social media and technology news. Fresh from finishing an English and Journalism degree from the University of the Philippines Diliman, he aims to bring interesting news to our readers . Don't forget to subscribe and receive our latest posts in your inbox.

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