5 characterisitics of viral content

Ever wonder how a single post can generate hundreds of thousands of likes, shares and retweets in just a short period of time?  It is amazing how one post can inspire so much attention and drive so much traffic even if, at first glance, the content seems no different to any other from your perspective. While there is no definitive criterion that defines what viral content is, there are surely ways to evoke emotion and attract a lot of attention. Here are 5 types of content that have the potential to go viral:

1. Long in-depth posts

Long in-depth posts that contain a great deal of information are more likely to be shared than shorter blurb-type ones. This is because people value the power of detailed posts and, after all, information is power.

People like being able to cite studies, facts and other solid data in arguments, which is why in-depth posts get a lot more attention and are more likely to be referred back to from other sites. This is because a link to a detailed article is much better than copying a few specific lines that are deemed thought-provoking or useful. Articles that cite important notes or facts about a particular phenomenon or issue are also tend to be shared instead of copied.

2. Emotionally arousing posts

People use different social media platforms mainly to maintain relationships. This is the ultimate alternative to bridge physical gaps and maintain communication. Because people are naturally emotional, they easily respond to materials that arouse feelings of anxiety, anger, excitement, achievement and awe. Stunning photographs of landscapes and people’s portraits can easily get thousands of likes or shares simply because they speak directly to the audience. Raging letters of protest rouse sympathisers because they often represent shared sentiments.

3. Practical and useful materials

Perfect examples of these are news organisations, informational and how-to websites that provide easily accessible updates and advice on how to solve day-to-day problems. Trivial facts that elicit surprise or amazement are always interesting to people. Timely news updates about famous people or particular groups and organisations are deemed useful to specific types of audiences and can gather a lot of momentum depending on what’s trending at present.

4. Articles by famous authors

Posting a spoiler alert about hugely popular TV series and other famous literature and movies can become an instantly viral hit on Facebook and Twitter. Furthermore, a celebrity or political figure posting or tweeting about something shocking – like a sexual preference – can also become heavily shared and read.

Even simple self-portraits posted on Instagram garner thousands of likes if they are of a celebrity or influential figure.

5. Humour

No matter how many negative posts and gloomy updates are posted online, the power of humour and happiness is always stronger. Thus, injecting humour into your post will not only brighten someone’s day but also provide you with significant numbers of likes and shares.

Remember back in 2008 when former US President George W Bush had shoes hurled at him during a press conference? Well, following that incident an online game appeared where players could throw virtual shoes at George W Bush. Let’s just say that this was one small game that instantly went viral and ended up netting the creator a significant sum of money after he sold it.

Key Takeaways

  • Provide detailed in-depth information wherever possible
  • Arouse emotions at every opportunity
  • Supply practical tips and useful advice for everyday problems
  • Harness the power of celebrity brands
  • Make people laugh and enjoy themselves with your content

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Francine Bishop

Owner at Mayvin Training

I am a trainer and the author of Social Media Evolution. I teach business owners to use social media, their website and online profile to create maximum exposure, attract more customers and generate sales. No jargon here! Just plain and simple english giving clear and actionable instructions.

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Phil Khor

Phil Khor , Founder at SavvySME

Great article Francine, I especially like the example of shoes hurling at George W Bush, unforgettable! :D

Francine Bishop

Francine Bishop , Owner at Mayvin Training

Hi Phil. Thank you for your feedback, glad you enjoyed my article. :)