Even if you don’t know what viral content is, you’ve likely encountered them before or even participated in one. The companies behind such pieces benefit greatly in terms of brand awareness and visibility. But what exactly is viral content and what are the factors that drive them?
Here we’ll cover the following:
- What is viral content?
- What makes content go viral?
- Examples of viral content
We’ll also look at whether content can go viral without any marketing.
What is Viral Content?
Viral content is just what it sounds like – It’s a piece of content that circulates rapidly through the web. These can be anything from videos to blog posts and infographics.
Social media networks offer the perfect platform for content to go viral. Both Facebook and Instagram have well over a billion active users while Twitter has over 300 million. A single video posted to YouTube can be shared on Facebook and spread across the platform and even spill over to other networks.
What Makes Content Go Viral?
Over 3 million blog posts are published every day according to Internet Live Stats. Most are undoubtedly swept away in the vast sea of content but a handful will beat the odds and spread like wildfire. So what makes certain pieces of content stand out?
Jonah Berger co-published a research paper titled “What Makes Online Content Go Viral?”. More than 7,000 pieces of content were examined from the New York Times to look at why certain pieces of content were more likely to be shared than others.
Content that was more likely to go viral shared the following:
- Positive content such as uplifting stories that inspire awe and hope
- Content that evoke high arousal emotions such as fear of loss
- Practically useful content such guides and tutorials
Think about the last piece of content you shared with a friend. There’s a good chance that it shared one of the attributes above.
Examples of Viral Content
Old Spice offers one of the best examples of viral content.
It started with the launch of “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” video on YouTube. The video quickly went viral and racked up over 55 million views. Sales grew a staggering 55% in the three months following the campaign. The success of the campaign can be attributed to its use of humour and tapping into our desire to belong (e.g. You can smell like a famous star too by using our product).
Another example is the ice bucket challenge which took the world by storm back in 2014. Participants were filmed dumping a bucket of ice water on themselves and they can then nominate someone else to participate. Nominated participants had 24 hours to comply or make a donation. The ALS Association received $79.7 million in donations as a direct result of the challenge compared to the $2.5 million received during the same period the previous year.
These are just two examples of how effective viral content can be. So now onto the main question – Can content go viral without marketing?
If you publish a new piece of content it can certainly go viral without marketing it. But companies and influencers are now investing significant resources to creating the next piece of content that will take the world by storm. That makes competition for visibility online higher than ever.
Every piece of content has the potential to go viral but marketing it will drastically increase its chances of spreading across multiple platforms. The more people that see it the more likely they are to share it with their own followers.
Kym Wallis, the founding director of Higher Ranking has over 15 years of advertising sales, digital strategy, and business development experience. He is currently working as Digital Adviser for Acclaim Rewards.