Going Viral: How the Internet Makes Stupid People & Random Moments Famous
Going viral. It’s the dream of every blogger and wannabe social media “influencer” out there. When a post or piece of content goes viral it automatically means more website traffic, more followers, more views, more subscribers, more comments, more shares and maybe even more money.
Viral = exposure to the world.
Most people think that going viral is something that just happens, and while it does, you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than you do going viral without any thought or planning behind it.
Your content needs to be perfectly executed. Your timing has to be ideal, and you need the right kind of sharing power (strategy) behind it in the beginning.
Some get lucky, but most viral content has a massive plan and effort behind it. It’s not easy, because if it was, everyone would be going viral and we would all be social media celebrities.
Planning on Going Viral? If you want to create viral content, use these ten tips below to help your chances.
1. Create content based around trends and current events.
If something is “hot” at the moment, that means one thing: people are interest in it. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are interested in the topic, but they are going to share content based around the current trendy news because it makes them feel important.
Remember the “leave Britney alone” video? It was made by a YouTube vlogger by the name of Chris Crocker. If you need to refresh your memory you can read more about here (or see the original video below). Britney Spears was a very hot topic around this time, and her antics of spiraling out of control were being covered by every media outlet.
This video was pure nonsense. It was this person crying and screaming “leave Britney alone” over and over. It was so over the top and outrageous that people couldn’t help sharing it and adding their two cents.
The success of this video had nothing to do with the actual content alone. If Britney wasn’t in the news and making headlines daily, then this would never have picked up as much steam. The fact that it was about the hottest topic at the time was the key factor.
2. Optimize your content for keywords related to those current events and trends.
As I mentioned above, creating content around hot topics is a great way to increase the chance of achieving viral status. But, like with any piece of content, you need people to be able to find it before you can even think of them sharing it.
You have to think about search engine optimization when you want to go viral. Things like blog post titles and video descriptions all need to be considered. If you are leveraging a hot new breaking topic, then the first to get indexed is going to have the best chance of going viral.
Understanding SEO is what sets apart the top viral sensations that experience it multiple times from the people that stumble onto it out of straight luck. It’s the same reason why some YouTube personalities receive millions of views per video and some can’t break 100. Optimization is everything.
When you set out to optimize your content you don’t want to use any tools or software. You need to think like someone who is wanting to find results for a particular trending topic. Those are the keywords you need to optimize for. This blog post will help you understand SEO a little more if you are not familiar with how it works.
3. Produce high quality content.
There are two types of content, especially when it comes to video. There is shaky low quality video that looks like it was filmed with a potato and then there is content that has a professional production quality to it.
The “potato” video content is usually the random stuff caught on camera that was pure luck, and it wasn’t filmed with the intent of going viral. It’s just genuinely spectacular and funny, so people share it like crazy. Its creator usually doesn’t monetize it. They are happy with their 15 minutes of internet fame.
If your goal is to monetize viral content in some way, then the quality of your content needs to be taken into consideration. Look at the popular prank-style YouTube channels. They are now creating content with such a high production value. Since they are making money, they are able to reinvest it into better equipment and filming locations.
Unless you happen to luck out and capture something epic on your iPhone camera, you will need to create something that has high quality if you want to encourage sharing.
4. Attract the attention of influencers and journalists (even non-traditional ones).
If you don’t know who Ken Bone is, you need to come out from hiding under the rock you are under. He became an internet sensation after he was interviewed during one of the Presidential debates.
He began trending on social media within minutes. He was a goofy guy wearing a red sweater and his name set people off. There were Ken Bone memes being spread all over and you could even buy his red sweater.
He was being interviewed by every major media news outlet the following week and was even being paid appearance fees for showing up to public events. Ken Bone mania was sweeping the world.
He went viral because he attracted the attention of major media outlets and even non-traditional ones. Website like Barstoolsports.com ate it up. Just look at how many posts were about Ken Bone. While he didn’t seek out the attention this example provides a great lesson in just how powerful the media can be. If you are planning a viral strategy, then make sure you have some major media or influencers in your back pocket ready to help push.
5. Headlines MUST showcase a sense of humor.
You could have an epic piece of content with the potential to go viral, but if people don’t click on it, they will never know it exists. Headlines are everything, especially when it comes to getting a huge social media push behind you.
If you are serious about creating content that goes viral, I suggest you read Barstool Sports on a daily basis. It’s also a great example of how a simple blog can turn into a multi-million-dollar brand. They now have multiple podcast shows and a successful merchandise line. All of it started by writing funny blogs and getting them to go viral.
Their sense of humor can be heard in every blog post and every social media post before you even start to engage with the content. That is how it’s done. Someone needs to think “this is going to be funny” before they even start to view the content. Then, if it truly delivers and IS funny, they will be much more inclined to share it. A snowball effect can happen this way, resulting in everyone sharing.
6. Remember: controversy sells (the more outrageous the better).
Want proof that outrageous is a key viral component? Does it get any more outrageous than a selfie posted by a woman claiming to have three breasts? Now, this woman posted videos and pictures online claiming she got a 3rd breast via a cosmetic procedure.
The internet couldn’t get enough of this story, and it was on almost every single social media feed and major blog out there. This person was just looking for attention and reportedly trying to hype up a potential reality show.
One thing to remember: if you get REALLY outrageous, like this woman did, then the public is going to start digging and if there is dirt to uncover, they will surely find it. In her case, someone found a report filed about lost luggage and in the contents, it was discovered that she claimed a fake breast. So, it was deemed to be fake news and just a publicity stunt.
Fake or not, it proves that people will immediately share something without fact checking as long as it is outrageous. They want to provide the “shock value” to their friends and followers. Use this desire as leverage to get them to share your outrageous content.
7. Use paid social media to gain fast traction.
I’m a huge fan of paid social media, and there are ways to use it to promote your content to help spark a viral situation. Sometimes a simple $100 boost can get you so much organic shares and engagement that it will then start to ride that organic wave and grow into something very popular.
I would make it a habit of promoting all of your content using paid social, just to help with brand awareness. It will help you overall, and it might even lead to some viral shares. It’s how sites like Barstool Sports grew and attracted new readers. If you think some of the biggest viral sensations out there were 100% organic without any paid spend you are mistaken.
8. Visual will always perform better, with video the preferred content platform.
Visual content will always go viral faster than any traditional blog post simply because pictures and vide are easy to understand and the message is delivered instantly. Nobody wants to read paragraphs of words to get a punchline. They want to see someone trip and fall in 10 seconds, or see a funny meme image and share it within seconds.
Look at this brilliant piece of viral content. The creators claim it was rugby-themed pizza, but anyone with a sense of humor and functioning brain knows what they were really implying. It was a brilliant move, and they knew that the internet would eat it up.
Now, if they simply posted the images and said something along the lines of, “What does this look like” it would never have gone viral. They baited people by claiming that it was supposed to resemble a rugby ball. The public would have none of that and started to share and voice their opinions.
Honestly, this is how viral content is done. It also proves that visual content is always going to outperform anything else. It’s just too easy to absorb and share across several platforms, helping to enhance its reach even further.
9. Be different (don’t just copy and recycle).
This is so insane, but it just goes to prove that the world will eat up stupid things and make “stars” out of just about anyone. The “cash me outside” girl blew up almost overnight. Now, she had a HUGE platform to start with (Dr. Phil) but leveraged that to get picked up by almost every media outlet around the world.
Look at her Instagram account. She is now verified and has more than 10 million followers.
This is an example of how being different can turn into a huge viral opportunity. There was nothing like her. 13 years old and acted like she did. Not condoning her behavior, just stating that it was different than what the public was used to seeing. It certainly contributed to her success.
A little well timed back chat on the Doctor Phill show, has now resulted in this cheeky girl earning a clean fortune.
So, don’t be afraid to try something different, rather than recycling the same memes that other accounts post.
10. Use Reddit as a testing ground.
Do you remember when the “What color is this dress” question was over taking social media? If you need a refresher, check this out. It had the internet arguing for days and people were getting so heated.
It was one of those unicorn deals, where for some reason it just went viral with no promotion strategy. But I’m going to use this as an example of how Reddit can really help you decide whether or not something has viral potential.
Check out this Reddit post on the dress color debate. There is so much engagement. Reddit is a great testing ground, because its users are typically good judgers of something with viral potential. If they are eating it up, then the rest of the world will absolutely devour the subject. Reddit users are very picky and some of the hardest to please. If you get their approval, you stand a good chance of gaining a lot of traction with the rest of the world.
While going viral sometimes “just happens,” that is a very rare occasion. When you think about how much content is published every single day on social media and online in general, you realize how rare it is to achieve a viral state.
Think about what funny memes or posts you saw today. Maybe two or three? That’s a handful of viral posts out of the millions that were made each hour. Going viral is the equivalent of becoming the next unicorn startup worth billions of dollars. Does it happen? Sure, but it is extremely rare.
Have you ever had a blog post or social media content go viral? If so, what do you think contributed to its success? Please share your experience in the comments below. Also, if you have any questions please drop them below as well and I will try to answer them all as quickly as possible.
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