21 Jun Content is King: How to Create Viral Content
Marketers around the world, from Junior Execs to Account Directors, will be familiar with the phrase ‘Content is King’ from the article written by Bill Gates back in 1996. This was a prediction that has been validated time and time again over the last 21 years, with all the top brands and influencers around the world receiving great engagement and exposure through campaigns all based around content. He stated that ‘Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.’ (Gates, 1996) and with the likes of Red Bull and the new millennial job title Vlogger or Youtuber using content as their main source of income, it seems as if his hypothesis was spot on.
The meteoric rise of content creation on the Internet has been the result of 2 main factors: The advancement of commercially available technology and the power of social media to make content go ‘viral’.
In the early days of content creation on the Internet, lack of widely available tech and suitable platforms made it difficult for the average Joe to create and publish said content. Fast forward 20 years and it’s now super easy to create, edit and publish a full HD video to a wide variety of networks (such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube) all from the palm of your hand.
With all of this technology at our fingertips, content creation is easier than ever before. Most of us create content on a daily basis whether it’s a Snapchat story, an Instagram post or even a good old-fashioned blog post. However, as we all know, just because you create content it doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to receive exposure and engagement and a one-way ticket to the dizzying heights of Internet stardom.
I’ll use my own content as an example. My most popular Instagram post got a grand total of 73 likes (greatest day of my life). I thought it was a great piece of content but 73 likes doesn’t exactly put it in the viral category. Compare this to the kind of viral content created by brands and influencers that receives millions of views and it’s a mere drop in the ocean.
So what does it take to go ‘viral’? Well, there is no such thing as a fool proof strategy, unfortunately, but there are some tips and general rules of thumb that apply for both personal and brand platforms that may help to put you on the path to Internet stardom.
Emotive, Shareable Content
This is probably the most important element to consider when creating viral content as this is how your campaign grows legs – so to speak. Viral can be defined as ‘an image, video or a piece of information that is circulated rapidly and widely on the Internet.’ This is achieved through users having an interest and sharing your content with their communities and then users within those communities sharing it with their wider networks.
In order for someone to share your content, there needs to be a strong emotive trigger that causes them to click that ‘share’ or RT button. Any emotion can trigger a response, be it love, admiration, anger, shock, sadness or humour. Think about the message you are trying to convey and the response you want to evoke in the user.
Being Relevant and Reactive
It’s also important to ensure that your content is relevant, not only to your audience, but also to the wider weird and wonderful audiences of the global Internet. Just because you think your content is high quality and relevant to your target audience, does not mean that it has the ability to go viral. Aim to create content that is in line with current trends, movements or hashtags in order to give your content the best possible ‘launch pad.’ A lot of brands have used this tactic very successfully by creating reactive content with their product as the hero.
My favourite example of this was back in 2013 when there was a blackout at the Super Bowl final. Oreo created a social media post with the simple caption: ‘You can still dunk in the dark.’ (Picture above). This simple yet effective post received 15,000 retweets and 20,000 likes within 10 minutes of being posted, showing the enormous impact of relevance and reactivity when it comes to viral content. So, always look to current trends on social media and think about timing when publishing content.
Positive always outweighs the Negative, Keep it Simple
When a user shares your content, it reflects their personality, beliefs and how they are perceived as a person. Creating content that divides opinion and can be viewed in a negative light puts either yourself or your brand at serious risk and can cause you to go viral for all the wrong reasons. The traditional phrase of ‘All PR is good PR’ is rapidly losing its appeal with brands losing large amounts of goodwill with consumers as a result of creating content around controversial topics. Social media has given consumers a hugely powerful voice and they’re not a afraid to use it. This means that negative content can go viral for all the wrong reasons.
The latest example of this is of course Pepsi’s latest advert with Kendall Jenner, which went viral, causing a huge storm on social media around the topic of ‘appropriation.’ The advert had to be pulled and a full apology issued by the American soft drinks giant. With this in mind, give some serious thought to how different communities will view your content and make sure you are not giving the social community reason to haul you across the coals due to ill-advised content. The trolls will always put in an appearance and pick holes in your work, anyway so avoid giving them rich fodder if you can!
Whilst there are a number of ways to improve your chances of going viral, there is still an element of luck involved. This ultimately boils down to having the critical mass to share your content across a variety of platforms and for it to strike a chord with a user. Some days you will produce quality content that has as good a chance as any of going viral, however you are overshadowed by a dog on a skateboard doing his finest Tony Hawk impression. To increase your ‘luck’, try publishing during periods of lower traffic rather than attempting a viral campaign around peak content posting times. For example, try and find a quirky holiday to create a campaign around rather than trying to compete with large brands around times like Christmas or April Fool’s Day.
Overall, there is no exact formula to scoring that elusive viral campaign due to the weird and wonderful vagaries of the Internet and social media. Most social networks are now saturated with both user-generated and brand-generated content, so it has become a lot harder to attract attention than it was even five years ago. However the tips above will help to give your content the best chance of racking up the ‘view’ count and generating interest and goodwill for your brand.