Unlock The 7 Time-Tested Tactics On How To Create Contagious Content That Clicks!
We see a ton of consumer companies who say, “we’ll just make it viral”. It’s hard to achieve virality. If there were a virality button, if there were virality dust, then no one would spend a dollar on advertising. Viral is not easy. It’s hard, and it has to be built into your content, product, and service. The best viral content is built around viral mechanisms. – Josh Kopelman in A Dozen Lessons for Entrepreneurs
As the name implies, contagious content catches on quickly.
It leaps from user to user, shared liberally on media outlets and social media within networks of friends, family, and the mass public.
Understanding the fundamentals of what makes a viral video reach the masses is key to capturing your audiences attention and enrolling them in the product, service or channel you’re promoting.
While there is no "viral button" to press or "viral dust" to sprinkle, there are several key elements or "raw viral dust materials" you can use to leverage right now to propel your content from unseen to positively ubiquitous.
After all, the ultimate goal isn’t to make a video that gets shared. It's about producing content that is worth sharing. If you first focus on the process and the art, the outcome will take care of itself.
MINDSET CHECK: The ultimate goal isn’t to make a video that gets shared. It's about producing content that is worth sharing.
Let's answer three fundamental questions about Contagious Content to best tilt the odds in your favor to go viral.
- Question 1: What are the 7 Key Aspects of Viral Content?
- Question 2: What makes something more sticky and worth sharing?
- Question 3: What is the checklist framework to produce viral content that is time-tested, repeatable, and easily usable right now?
THE 7 KEY ASPECTS OF PRODUCING VIRAL CONTENT:
Emotional Pull: Does it stop the viewer dead in their tracks, reach through the screen and grab their attention right away?
Authentic Push: It’s all about the Nudge. The soft sell.
Piggybacking: Put your Bernie mittens on and jump on the back of the trend bandwagon.
Surprise! What a shock! Nothing quite captures your attention like the unexpected.
Memes: Short Fast Engagement. The more ridiculous, the more rewarding.
Know Your Audience: The Most Overlooked and Under-appreciated Aspect
Promotion: Launching your video is only the beginning, this is what separates the Pros from the Ams.
For a quick laugh, take a trip down memory lane with one of the internet's first viral videos in 2003. Ebaum’s World’s “The End of the World”.
It's short, funny, and slightly controversial – all aspects that make it sticky and worth sharing.
1. Emotional Pull
Does it use high arousal emotions to instantly reach through the screen and grab your attention?
We humans are inherently emotional creatures. The type of positive or negative emotional pull your video evokes will be a huge determining factor as to if someone takes the action to tap that share button or not.
What are the positive and negative high arousal emotions that trigger sharing?
The Positive High Arousal Emotions:
- Awe / Inspiration
The Negative High Arousal Emotions:
This chart, originally inspired by viral marketing expert Jonah Berger, maps the full 360-degree of human emotions and where they align on the sharing spectrum.
It's easy to see that by focusing on infusing positive high arousal emotions like excitement, awe, humor, happiness, and calm; you can tilt the odds in your favor to create contagious content.
Whether your video is there to make people laugh, cry, or gasp, zeroing in on what emotional chord is struck is at the core of what makes content viral.
"First Kiss" came out in 2014 and has over 147 million views and counting. Why? It plays on high arousal emotions connected to love and sex - such as excitement, anxiety, and happiness.
Being kissed or complimented releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter which is involved in the brain's reward and motivational system, and in addiction.
High levels of dopamine are believed to increase feelings of pleasure and relive pain.
2. Authentic Push (Nudge)
Know the action you want your audience to take.
After you’ve got your audience emotionally hooked, knowing what action you want them to take is critical.
Make sure your video isn't overly promotional or sales heavy, as it will run the risk of being interpreted as inauthentic.
If you are selling a product or service make sure you are upfront about that.
A great example of being upfront without pushiness is the classic Dollar Shave Club video.
It’s grabbed over 27 million views through a successful combination humor, happiness, and, most of all, authenticity.
Commonly referred to as "jumping on the bandwagon"!
Piggybacking comes with one caveat - Timing.
It has to be done quickly.
There are plenty of viral videos that have successfully ridden the coattails of other viral videos by mimicking their subject and/or style.
The single most important factor for this kind of piggybacking is timing. There is a short window of availability, before it closes shut. So it has to be done reasonably quickly.
Producing and releasing your content as soon as possible after the original viral video ensures you will ride the digital wave of increased traffic.
We've found success leveraging this exact tactic, producing “Shit Surfers Say” as a parody to the original “Shit Girls Say.”
This is what happens when you work for a surf company. Gotta love a license to get weird and create.
Nothing is quite as attention-grabbing as the unexpected.
Commonly referred to as "Shock and Awe" - surprises lead with high arousal emotions like; excitement, awe/inspiration, humor, and happiness.
Whether it’s a baby smoking a cigarette and hair catching fire, capturing the never-before-seen moment can make your video explode into the public! EN FUEGO!
The success of memes depends on timing, social network structure, randomness, and many other factors.
Memes cover a wide spectrum and typically have two main styles: one is a snapshot with a caption on it and the second is any visual idea relating to popular internet videos, hashtags, tweets, posts, jokes or trends.
Bernie Sanders in his mittens at the last Presidential Inauguration Day is a recent example in which he was photoshopped into thousands of different pop-culture scenes.
6. Know Your Audience
Niche is good. Sub-Niche is better.
Do not try to appeal to everyone. Let your target audience spread it.
If you try to accommodate everyone, your message will become diluted.
The fundamentals of learning what people want, understanding exactly how you can help them, and then presenting your offering to the right people in the most persuasive way are timeless strategies.
They worked 100 years ago and will work 1000 years from now.
In Sell Like Crazy, Sabri Suby outlines nine questions to help you zero in on your audience:
- Where does your audience / buyer hang out and congregate?
- Where does your dream audience / buyer get their information?
- What are their biggest frustrations and challenges?
- What are their hopes, dreams, and desires?
- What are their biggest fears?
- What is their preferred form of communication?
- What phrases, exact language, and vernacular do they use?
- What does a day in your dream audience member / buyer’s life look like?
- What makes them happy?
Answering these questions is absolutely paramount if you are going to truly know your audience.
These are amazing tools that will give you invaluable insight into what your audience is thinking and more importantly, actively engaging with.
Be your biggest advocate for your content.
The first six aspects of viral content are based around tools, tactics, and knowledgeable insights - the 7th aspect of viral content is based on action.
Because knowledge is not power, without action.
This is where the rubber meets the road.
It’s now time to draft a promotional strategy to execute. This doesn't have to be complicated to be highly effective.
In its most basic form this means making a simple list or spreadsheet of the target audience:
- Youtube Channels
- Vimeo Groups and Channels
- Instagram Accounts
- Twitter Accounts
- SEO, Keywords, Search Phrases
So what makes something more sticky and worth sharing?
It's about a shared experience.
As Dao Nguyen, a Media Analytics Expert for BuzzFeed discusses the 5 main elements of the Cultural Cartography Framework in her Ted Talk, What Makes Something Go Viral.
- Humor - "Makes Me Laugh". Content that is just good, clean, and non-offensively funny.
- Identity - "This is Me". Self deprecating content that helps makes a joke about yourself.
- Community - "This is Us". This content helps me connect and share a bond with another person and community.
- Helps Me - "Helps You Learn". Content that reveals something you may not have knowing about yourself.
- Emotive - "Makes Me Feel". Content that lets you know there is still good out there.
Kevin Allocca, Trends Manager at Youtube expands on these points further in his highly entertaining Ted Talk, Why Videos Go Viral.
Where he brakes down the success of several viral videos and memes that have many of the 7 Key Viral Elements embedded in them.
Thanks to tastemakers (promotion), communities of participation (knowing your audience), and randomness (any of the other 5 key viral aspects) videos blow up on the internet and become a cultural phenomenon.
And the best part about it...is that "it could all happen by next Saturday!"
Your Viral Video Checklist
The secret of the "viral dust" lies in the combination of these 7 key aspects of contagious content - not in any single one alone.
The more viral elements you can infuse into your content, the more sticky and worth sharing your videos and ad campaigns will become with your target audience.
And the more you tilt the odds in your favor of crossing the chasm of your intended audience and going viral on the masses.
Not only do you want to be able to do this once, you want to be able to repeat the process time and again.
That's why we’ve designed a downloadable checklist that you and your team can easily use in the pre-production stage as a reference guide to check off as many of the 7 Key Aspects of Viral Content into your next video or ad campaign.
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- Hawke Media: The 7 Common Elements of Viral Videos
- Social Media Today: 5 Key Elements of viral Video Content
- Jeff Bullas: 4 Key Elements for a Viral Video
- Business 2 Community: 4 Elements You Need for a Viral Video
- Tubular Insights: The Viral Video Formula Revealed
- Resource UMC: Common Elements in Viral Videos
- ResearchGate: An Overview of Clustering The Virality of Memes