11 Elements of Viral Content (No Magic Needed)
This is a guest post – Ben Wilson has 16 years of experience in sales, sales management and marketing, 11 of which have been spent consulting within the small to medium-sized business website sector. Ben is the director of Web Force 5, Australia’s largest website development company. Ben is one of the most experienced consultants in the website industry in Australia having been personally involved in thousands of website projects for small to medium-sized businesses. With a wealth of experience in consulting and with businesses across all industry sectors, Ben brings with him a broad perspective and a level of creativity that is rare in the website consulting industry.
What makes a piece of content go viral?
You may think there must be some kind of magic involved…
But no. Magic has nothing to do with viral content. (Sorry to burst your bubble)
Recent research has found out that it takes certain elements to make content contagious, elements that make it hard for people to resist the urge to read and share.
Read on to discover the ingredients that make up a viral content.
1. (Odd) Numbers in the headline
Ever noticed magazine covers with numbers in their headlines?
Notice how most blog posts today have numbers in the title?
A title that goes along the lines of ‘Lose Weight in 7 Easy Steps’ or ‘5 Foods You Should Be Eating’ sounds more enticing than just ‘How to Lose Weight.’
A study by conductor revealed that ‘number’ headlines are 36% more likely to get clicks and headlines with odd numbers have 20% higher click-through rate.
An example is Buzzfeed. They use numbers in their headlines a lot as seen on the following titles.
Now you might ask. Why?
Numbers are more specific and make people more curious. They simply work.
So the next time you think of a headline, try to use numbers. Preferably an odd one.
In addition to numbers, you can also use brackets in your headline.
This is a way of giving your readers a sneak peek of what’s in your post. Also, they add a curiosity factor like this post’s headline for example. Take a second look.
Whether your post is an interesting story, a how-to or a case study, you can let your audience know what they’re in for by using brackets. This makes them more curious thus convincing them to click.
3. An attractive image
This one’s quite obvious. We simply LOVE pictures.
According to Xerox, colour improves readership by 80%. Appealing images increase attention span and recall. It certainly is more fun to read something with a fun and cool photo.
Put your image above the fold without hiding the first few lines of your content. Readers may easily lose interest if they have to scroll down to read the first line.
In this post, the image is placed right below the title. Another example from The Huffington Post shows how the images were cleverly placed shortly after the intro.
4. More images
Hey, pictures are wonderful. So why stop at one?
Content with images gets more views simply because pictures make your content less boring. Some people also prefer to look at photos rather than read a lot of text.
You may be familiar with the expression, ‘Take a photo, or it didn’t happen.’ Photos are the simplest proof anyone can use to back up a claim. They add more credibility to your post.
MORE CREDIBILITY = MORE SHARES
So don’t be afraid to add some more into the mix. And don’t worry, ANY image will do the trick.
For example, if you’re writing about power foods and want to share the health benefits of a banana, you can use any image of a banana and you’re good.
5. Professional photos
There’s one thing you have to remember when using photos though.
Based on a study, professional images get 121% more shares on Facebook compared to non-professional ones. There is definitely a certain air about professional photos.
Sharing lots of photos would be pointless if they are low quality. More importantly, using professional pictures is your best option if you want to be taken seriously.
6. Short intro
Do you know that only 28% of a post is read by users?
It is therefore important to hook your readers. FAST.
Do this by writing short sentences in your intro. See example below.
If you lose your readers right from the intro, you lose the chance of your post getting read. (and shared)
7. Share buttons
Consider your share buttons as your ticket to success. If readers like what they see, they are most likely to share it.
Share buttons should be easy to see. For maximum visibility, put your share buttons at the top of your post. Elements placed on this part are seen by more people.
But that’s not exactly a rule of thumb. You can practically place share buttons anywhere on your post AS LONG AS THEY’RE VISIBLE. They can be on the left, right or bottom. Spread them out.
Take a look at The Huffington Post’s share buttons. They follow you scrolling down the page.
And further down the page…
A few years back, millions of hearts around the world melted after watching this adorable video of a 10-month old baby crying while listening to her mother sing. In 2012, faith in humanity was restored when a high school athlete carried her opponent, whose body was giving out, across the finish line. And remember that T-Rex chasing a bridal party?
If there’s one thing all viral content has in common, it’s emotion – a vital element.
If content stirs something inside, whether it’s happiness, awe, anger or fear, people are more likely to share it.
Positive content gets massive shares compared to any other type of content.
This one’s a no brainer.
More people prefer to read (and share) content that uplifts and empowers them in certain ways. Posts with practical advice on self-improvement are sure-fire hits. DIY tips and how to’s also get shared a lot. There is already enough negativity in this world. Let’s focus on the positive.
Laughter is the best medicine. Ahh. This saying never gets old.
Humour keeps things light and fun. It’s a great ingredient that can spice up your content especially if the topic is boring. We can’t just be serious all the time.
So lighten things up. Don’t be afraid to include funny stuff in your post wherever it may be appropriate. Use funny pictures or memes. They’re a laughing stock of the interwebs.
If you want to add humour to your content, you will find these tips for writing funny helpful.
11. Good timing
Research has found that the best time to publish content is in the AM hours – between 8AM and 12PM EST. It is in these hours where the world is up and awake.
Who would have thought timing matters?
But yes, it does. Posting content at the right time can increase its chances of getting viewed and shared.
The Huffington Post shared a scientific guide that shed some light on this matter.
Never underestimate the power of the good old ‘call to action.’ Don’t be shy to ask people to share. And make it personal. The next person to hit the share button could be the key to your breakout post.
Now that you’ve got wind of the not-so-secret elements to creating viral content, try incorporating and combining some of these in your next post. A good mix of these things will get you noticed.
Ben Wilson has 16 years of experience in sales, sales management and marketing, 11 of which have been spent consulting within the small to medium-sized business website sector. Ben is the director of Web Force 5, Australia’s largest website development company. Ben is one of the most experienced consultants in the website industry in Australia having been personally involved in thousands of website projects for small to medium-sized businesses. With a wealth of experience in consulting and with businesses across all industry sectors, Ben brings with him a broad perspective and a level of creativity that is rare in the website consulting industry.
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