Most Common Characteristics of Viral Content


The main reason why you are reading this post is probably because you asked yourself this particular question at least once in your lifetime – what makes a good book? The question is pretty much the same for the viral content – what makes it viral? What is the essence that each blog post or article has that makes people click the small icons depicting a particular social medium on which they will share the previously read content?

From the perspective of a traditional book reader, I’d say that it is novelty and original and unique writing style that makes it popular but that is not the case. As a matter of fact, there is no a hidden theorem that, once calculated, will bring you virality. However, pieces of advice which can help you with increasing the overall virality of your writing are right here on this post. They are all based on the research of the most popular articles in the past year. Let’s dig in and examine these things further.

The moment of surprise is essential!

It is difficult to really find the topic that will surprise the reader to that extent that he decides to share it. Usually, it is a combination of the sole writing style with some new piece of information that will fundamentally change people’s world views. Since science is the thing that progresses rapidly on a daily basis, it is usually the articles connected to certain research that are shared a lot and that surprise.

For example, there is an article on how champagne actually lowers the possibility of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Despite the content inside the link, the mere headline was a reason enough to click on this link and read it. This is a simple psychological effect that usually headlines nowadays have – they invoke certain emotion. People are afraid of losing their reason; hence, they will read the article. The crucial part and that is the content within the article which relieves the people of the fear in a way. This was one more reason, besides the accompanying video, to share the article.

Pitching a trend, making the crowd feeling as being a part of the whole

There are different groups of people in this world and once they find out that they belong to the same tribe, the mutual feeling of respect and identification with one another arises. What tribe is that? Well, the tribe can be anything – every popular band has its own tribe which is a countless number of fans. But what is it with zombies?

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Due to recent popularity of the show „Walking Dead“, a cruise was organized, but as a zombieland of a sort. The tribe of the followers who eagerly await every new episode and every new season of this show went simply nuts over this and it resulted in over a million shares on social media. This was an example of pitching a trend – it was something cool, new and unique but the reader, although not being a part of the event, identified himself with those people and decided to click „share“.

A moment for inspiration for all of us

Have you ever asked yourself why do motivational speakers exist? I guess that we all sometimes lack either motivation or inspiration to achieve something and we seek it in unusual places – even in the articles. Furthermore, people need to satisfy their cravings for beauty that exist just like hunger exists and the article of the 51 Beautiful Quotes from Literature did exactly that – provided something inspirational and exceptional. It earned as much as 1.4 million shares on social media.

I cannot stress enough the importance of the strategically chosen pictures that should be incorporated into article. This article, in fact, does not contain pictures in the classical sense. As a matter of fact it is just a blurred image with a beautiful typography quoting an author. This combination made the article more interesting because it kept the attention of the readers all the way through. For comparison, go to and search quotes on a particular topic – you will give up after reading a few, simply because it is all text and no images.

Make the post visually beautiful

Have you seen any of the Harry Potter movies? If you have, then you must certainly know that all the newspapers have moving, repetitive pictures – something that we call today GIFs. GIFs make the article more captivating and if you manage to combine an appropriate GIF with the rest of the content, you are on a good path to going viral.

Let’s examine this NY Times article about travel. What do you notice? Apart from the great descriptions of the places, there are quite a few GIFs – and they are not just ordinary GIFs, but large ones which, if looked on a big screen, really put you in the middle of the place. Sadly, you will not always have the chance to find the appropriate GIFs.

Other important elements of a viral post

Of course, the list does not end here – there are many other elements that may or may not affect the virality of a post. Let’s which are some that are not mentioned. I divided them into the positive ones and negative ones.

Positive ones.

  • Cuteness overload – puppies, kittens and babies never go unnoticed. We’re biologically predetermined to go „awww“ over those.

  • Humor – always incorporate humor and even make articles just for humorous purpose.

  • Bullet lists such as this one – this may seem as a lousy attempt of practicing the previous bullet (I’ll show myself out), but it indeed increases readability. No one wants to read big chunks of text.

  • Quiz – people like testing their knowledge or just doing test (pop psychology). This kind of content always gets shared.

Negative ones

  • Controversy – people like knowing more about taboo. Talk about certain things which are frowned upon in the society, or just mention Trump.

  • Lip service – I am a skeptic and I simply don’t believe that I can lose 12 kilograms in one month – but apparently people believe it and share pieces of advice for this kind of stuff.

  • Tips & Tricks – this is usually helpful if written by a professional. However, tips and tricks on exercise, love, relationships, life are usually just click-baits and, therefore, are listed in the „Negative ones“

To sum up, there is not a single way to get viral and these pieces of advice are not a guarantee as well. It is up to you in the end to find great content, write original article, find appropriate accompanying material and publish it. If it is indeed creative and original, it will get shared a lot.

Amy Cowen is a content marketing strategist at Aussiewriter who specializes in maximizing the commercial impact of the content. She manages her own team of content writers and contributes to different blogs on marketing topics.

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After a career as a professional musician and band leader in the Miami South Florida Area I decided to see if I could make some money with this new internet thing. After years of trial and error I started to get the hang of it and now I am completely financially independent because of my various online businesses. The goal of this blog is to chronicle my continued marketing experiences. I focus on real examples of what works and what does not work. Google does not give us a recipe for getting our sites ranked. We have to use our own experiences to see what actually works rather than theory. I hope you enjoy the blog. Please let us know what you think in the comments area. We appreciate your feedback.