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Creating Viral Content

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Viral content may seem random, but sometimes it is anything but. Marketing managers often plan campaigns very carefully, paying attention to every detail about a piece of content’s appeal, release and reach. So what makes content go viral?

Sharing is Caring

Metcalfe’s Law, in the context of content marketing, states that the value of a campaign is measured by the connections it makes. A single piece of content is useless unless it connects people and connects with people.

Often-shared content

Articles and blog posts

Interactive content, including quizzes and games





Percentage of content on Facebook in 2017 that was the result of sharing


Number of internet users who upload and share videos

Most shared video publishers of 2017

Daily Mail 11.13 million

CNN 7.51 million

NowThis 4.24 million

BBC News 2.77 million

Essential Elements

There are a few basics that every piece of viral content should and does have.

It triggers powerful emotions

Certain emotions—positive and negative—lead consumers to share content, including:

  • Amusement
  • Interest
  • Outrage
  • Surprise
  • Joy
  • Hope
  • Affection
  • Excitement
  • Nostalgia
  • Disgust

It serves a purpose

The top 9 reasons that people share content is…

  • To connect with someone over a shared interest
  • To socialize with friends offline
  • To promote a product they believe is useful for others
  • To promote a good cause
  • To be involved in a current trend or event
  • To demonstrate their own knowledge of or authority on a subject
  • To start an online conversation
  • To share something about themselves
  • To gain opinions of friends

It’s practical

Many of the videos shared on social media are how-to demonstrations aimed at DIY projects or fixes.


Percentage of DIYers who look for inspirational content all year round

It fits into an already popular space

Content that relates to something that is already popular—like a trend in fashion or pop culture—is almost guaranteed to be shared, so long as it is also original.

8 out of 10

Number of recently shared articles that are quizzes, one of the most popular forms of shared content

It uses a list

People love lists, especially if the number of items is given at the beginning. Countdowns are also effective at creating anticipation and excitement.


The “magic number” for lists and countdowns. Lists of 10 had four times the amount of shares than the second most popular number, 23.

It doesn’t over-sell something

Endless self-promotion is tiresome. Business names or products should fit seamlessly into the story you’re trying to tell.

Learn how to master the art of organizing and implementing viral marketing campaigns through Concordia University, St. Paul’s online B.S. in Marketing.

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