10 Key Traits That Trigger Viral Content

Whatever the market is, going viral is the main aim of the contemporary industry, no matter what industry you’re in. Oscar Wilde once said:
And in terms of getting views and making content go viral, this is true.

There are both good ways and immoral ways of achieving this however. Fake news is a bad example of making content go viral due to the fact that these news sites promote lies and slander in order to further their own campaigns and revenue. Better examples come in the shape of crowd-funding for charities, innovative technology, raising awareness for causes and everything in-between.

In short, you want your content to be seen by as many people as possible. However, the game is unpredictable. One moment flipping a bottle of water to land on its head is the most popular trend in the world, but next week, it’s a purple pigeon head-banging to rock music.

People are very, very strange.

“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

There is no guaranteed way for something to go viral, it just has to hit that right note with a huge demographic. However, this is not to say that there are not ways to promote content into the spotlight. Elements of human behaviour and psychology play a huge part in regards to content becoming viral, and emotions headline this concept.

Covering the main human emotions will put you in good stead to see your content reach as many people as possible.

So, before you publish your next piece of content in the hope it reaches millions, here are some top tips:

What Went Viral Last Year and Why?

First, we’ll take a look at what went viral and the emotions that drove their viral spread.

Take a look at what Buzzsumo rated the top 10 most viral concepts last year here. We’ll use ” as a general example of what went viral last year
From the combined here are the articles that have been assigned emotions:

1. New Alzheimer’s Treatment

Emotion: Altruism
Finding out that there is a potential cure to one of the most life-altering diseases in the world is bound to get someone’s attention. This discovery was met with roaring optimism and makes it into my list due to the fact it was shared over 3 million times.

2. OCD Radar Quiz

Emotion: Surprising
Reason: This confused me, as I hadn’t seen or heard of this at all last year, and I see myself as a social media junkie. Why did this go viral? It’s engaging, it’s a simple easily accessible quiz (always good) and it ultimately asked a question without actually asking it. What do I mean by that? Well, the quiz is about OCD – which many people will claim they have ‘kind of’ with certain things. So, they take the quiz in order to find out how meticulous and particular they are regarding certain concepts, such as patterns, shapes, tidiness etc.

Quizzes are very good at gaining attention because people are constantly craving answers and specifically answers about themselves, quenching their psychoanalytic craving for bettering themselves, maybe.

3. 100 Inspirational Quotes

Emotion: Altruism
Considering many people believe 2016 to be one of the worst years ever because of celebrity deaths, Brexit and the appointment of Donald Trump as the US President, this viral concept didn’t shock me at all.

4. The First Born Child Is The Most Intelligent

Emotion: Surprise, Anxiety
This was indeed surprising. A lot of evidence popped up last year confirming that the first born child is more intelligent than the rest. It’s not the fact that we’re arguing here, it’s the reason why it went viral that we’re looking into. Again, it comes down to curiosity, a general thirst for knowledge and maybe even some Freudian conspiracies lie within this concept.

This appealed to an incredibly large audience because every family with children has a first born child. Sibling rivalries and comedy with also huge reasons why it was shared. It also sparked debate amongst siblings, which as everyone who has a sibling knows, can last a lifetime

4. The First Born Child Is The Most Intelligent

Emotion: Surprise, Anxiety
This was indeed surprising. A lot of evidence popped up last year confirming that the first born child is more intelligent than the rest. It’s not the fact that we’re arguing here, it’s the reason why it went viral that we’re looking into. Again, it comes down to curiosity, a general thirst for knowledge and maybe even some Freudian conspiracies lie within this concept.

This appealed to an incredibly large audience because every family with children has a first born child. Sibling rivalries and comedy with also huge reasons why it was shared. It also sparked debate amongst siblings, which as everyone who has a sibling knows, can last a lifetime

5. Donald Trump

Emotion: All of them?
It’s fair to say that the election of Trump didn’t sit well with a large amount of people, but then he won, right? So surely that encompasses joy? What about fear, or anxiety? I think Trump succeeds in capturing many emotions, and this is definitely one of the reasons he went viral last year, alongside his presidency, obviously.

6. Healthy Snacks

Emotion: Happiness, Altruism
Health kicks have always been popular, but thanks to the power of social media and the growing market that is aestheticism and general consumer culture, healthy snacks has been thriving. Changing you life for the better is always going to entice people to eat healthier and exercise. It could also be argued that society are constantly being coerced into looking similar to super models and other celebrities, which can be damaging, as photo-editing and money are the main reasons why high-profile celebrities are slapped all over the front pages of popular forms of social media.

7. Bald Men Are Sexier

Emotion: Altruism, Happiness
A slightly tricky one, in regards to why this went viral. It could be argued that due to the fact that male alopecia is somewhat irreversible (unless medication is taken) claiming that balder men are sexier makes the fear of losing hair less scary. Couple this idea with high-profile, attractive celebrities such as Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, Vince Diesel and Dwayne Johnson and you’re bound to agree with the article.

8. DNA Test Results

Emotion: Surprise, Anxiety
Jeremy Kyle and Jerry Springer are known as the masters of DNA test results, due to the fact they present them on their respective shows in front of a live audience. However, the video that went viral focused on biased people as they were given the DNA results revealing their own origins. The post was incredibly moving and had a very positive message in a year of rising nationalism and concerns regarding racism and immigration.

9. Women Need More Sleep Because Their Brains Work Harder

Emotion: Surprise, Anger
I for one thought this was just a gimmick. This post follows the format that reporting on research in a popular way that will appeal to a particular audience. Eventually there will be a Facebook post with scientific evidence that vindicates every single bad habit.

10. Top 10 Abs Exercises

Emotion: Altruism, Happiness
Very similar to the healthy snacks trend, in that this content again revolves around healthy-living. So, for the people that want to get that summer body, better get sharing!

Arouse The Emotions

Professors John Berger and Katherine Milkman of the University of Pennsylvania published a study titled ‘What Makes Online Content Viral’  back in 2012. The study analysed almost 7,000 New York Times articles and found that amongst the viral articles lay concepts revolving around ‘high-arousal emotions’.

These included awe, excitement and amusement. This was content that left the reader amused, excited or inspired to take action. This, ‘happier’ content out-shared the content that evoked sadness and contentment. However, this is not to say that the ‘sadder’ content did not share well.

The important thing to remember is that people don’t want to be made to sit on the fence after engaging with your content. Your audience will share something that has provoked an immediate response or emotion, not something they feel unsure about.

By taking a clear position, it allows your audience to essentially pick a side and then share what resonates with their personal interests.

Happiness

Happiness would spring into people’s minds as the most common shared article, but what makes people happy? It ranges between humour, inspiration or anything that’s generally uplifting (more on that later).

Empathy is a good place to start, sharing a video of cute puppies is bound to hit a large demographic, why? Because everyone loves puppies and everyone wants to watch the cute puppy do cute things.
In short, people would rather see happy things than sad things. It’s simple really!

Anger

The short of this emotion works like this: if you make some angry, they’ll do their utmost to attain justice.

A modern example of this would be whenever Donald Trump posts…well, anything apparently. His outlandish statements and ludicrous action usually attract anger and disarray and this causes people to comment, share and vent their opinions through social media outlets.

How do you promote and entice anger? Simple, challenge someone’s beliefs and soon enough you’ll receive backlash.

Just take a look at Content is King Myth Debunked for more information regarding topics.

Surprise

Surprising people is easy, just go against their expectations! Challenging assumptions, revealing interesting information, contradicting facts with new facts, concepts such as these are bound to grab someone’s attention.
This is arguably one of the biggest emotional hitters with regards to getting content to go viral.

Sadness/Anxiety

People hate anxiety and people don’t like being sad. Obvious, right? Everyone wants to avoid it right? Don’t share content about it, right? Wrong.
If you’re writing content that addresses the notion of ‘loss’ or more specifically, stating how people may feel when something is taken from them. Take Photoshop’s month trial for example, once you’re given a free month of full-range editing and extensive creative tools, customers won’t be too happy when you take this away from them.
So, what is their gut reaction? Buy the product, or else they lose out on their previously positive experience. Loss aversion is so powerful in today’s ever-changing media world, and gifting someone a taster of your product for a limited amount of time may arguably be risky (if it turns out they don’t like the product and therefore don’t buy it) but more often than not, the customer will go on to purchase it.

Fear

Fear – especially in contemporary society – is one of the biggest motivators on Earth. It targets the reptilian brain and people simply want to find the fastest and best possible solution to conquer or even dispel this fear.

Examples of fear in articles are present everywhere. Some popular titles are along the lines of: ‘Are You Where You Want to Be at 23?’ ‘Trump Removes Obamacare’ and health articles claiming that you may die in a week if you have certain symptoms. For the most part, the titles mislead you into clicking onto the article in order for them to get views and shares.

This tactic isn’t just deployed in articles, airline companies do this with the ‘buy now, only 3 seats left at this price!’ tagline. Whilst this may be true for the most part, it scares the buyer into a quick purchase because they fear they’ll miss out on a good deal, or miss the chance to travel to their desired destination.

Altruism

Remember the Golden Rules

Now that you’ve read through the key emotions that lead to viral content, it’s important to remember two golden rules:

  1. When you’re looking to get traffic for your website, business, product, whatever it may be, remember to show your consumers how to implement the advice you’re giving them. Give them action steps to help achieve their outcome, don’t just falsely mislead them with a title, the’re not likely to come back after that.
  2. Finally, don’t just write content for the sake of filling up your blog page. Always have a target in mind, if you can make it relevant to current trends, even better. Try and hit those high-arousal emotions, if you achieve this, you’ve built a solid foundation for your content to go viral.

Now, share this on every social media outlet or Earth will be hit by a comet by 5pm.