Everybody is looking for the Holy Grail of Internet marketing … that special sauce that they can squeeze onto their content or video so that people not only read or view it but share it, over and over again with everyone they know. They are looking to go viral. Now having a post that goes viral is awesome, but I would argue that this is what you should be striving for with every post you make. Who really wants to be a one-hit wonder? Wouldn’t it be much better to have hit after hit of the most sought after content that people come back to your site over and over again looking for the next pearl of wisdom you have to offer? Like writing a hit song or developing a gourmet recipe, there are certain steps that you should take in creating posts to increase its stickiness and thus its virality (not even sure this is a word, but you get what I’m talking about).
So what are the 7 common threads that are in almost every viral post you see on the internet:
We are social beings, we want to feel emotion. We want to connect with the content of the post; it needs to spark something in us. Whether its humor, sadness, anger, remorse, excitement, or compassion … we need to feel and be drawn in. Think about the posts that you’ve forward over the last few weeks … I’m sure they elicited some level of emotional response from you.
2) Visually Appealing:
They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. If that’s the case, then why do book publishers invest so much money each year on cover art? It’s because pictures, graphics, colors, fonts, layout, and all those other visual aspects of a post are the first impression that people get of your post. If you can’t real them in on the initial page splash, they’re not going to take the time to read through the content or view the video. Consider using a shocking title or picture as a way to draw them in.
People are more interested in things that are real/authentic than if they are fake. Real news, real-life situations, real stories, things that are spontaneous get pushed more than things that are made up or contrived. People like the intimate aspect of you letting them into your life or your family. So when your writing content, first-person, with true stories, that get your message across in a way that connects your reader to you, is always going to play best.
4) Universal Message:
Your message needs to be a universal one. Coca Cola doesn’t sell soda, it sells peace, it sells integration, it sells harmony. More people can get behind big messages like empowerment, sustainability, love! Make your message a broad-based one.
Most posts that go viral have a relevant aspect to them. Everyone can relate to animals, kids, families, vets, and emotions. There needs to be relevance that resonates with the viewer. If you can’t push that connection … if you can’t make the viewer/reader empathize with the post, it is much less likely that they will repost it.
Everybody likes a little controversy. As humans, we are pretty strong in our convictions. If someone can effectively outline our position on something we are more likely to share it. Conversely, if someone opposes our position, we are also likely to share it and discredit it in the process. Either way, your post is gaining legs.
7) Surprise Element:
Who doesn’t like a twist or a surprise. The Sixth Sense came out more than 20 years ago, with its surprise ending. It put M. Night Shyamalan on the map and moved the phrase “I see dead people” into everyday vernacular. It’s these little twists and unexpected rollercoaster rides we can take people on, that help to provide the wow factor to things we do. The “Holy @*#t, I didn’t see that coming,” will prompt sharing of the surprise.
Now I’m not saying that if you follow this recipe, every post will go viral. Believe me, while I like cooking/baking, and I’m not bad at it, I have failed many a meal that should have come out great. All I am saying is that if you incorporate some of these elements into your postings, you will have a higher likelihood of success. All I ask is that when you find the secret sauce, send me a jar so I can see how it tastes.
Kenneth R. Cerini, CPA, CFP, FABFA
Ken is the Managing Partner of Cerini & Associates, LLP and is the executive responsible for the administration of our not-for-profit and educational provider practice groups. In addition to his extensive audit experience, Ken has been directly involved in providing consulting services for nonprofits and educational facilities of all sizes throughout New York State in such areas as cost reporting, financial analysis, Medicaid compliance, government audit representation, rate maximization, board training, budgeting and forecasting, and more.