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While it’s nearly impossible to predict which content will go “viral,” it is possible to predict which content will become highly sharable. As a result, marketers are theoretically able to reverse-engineer the process of creating engaging, high-quality content.
In short, simply study what has been successful recently – and then re-create similar types of content. It’s the reason why you see certain types of content – like listicles, how-to articles and posts with infographics – appear over and over again, no matter which site on the Internet you’re visiting. This is content that’s been proven to work. You might say that this digital content has the right DNA to go viral. With that in mind, here are three key elements of any great shareable content.
#1: Content that triggers a strong emotional reaction
Jonah Berger, the author of “Contagious,” studied over 7,000 New York Times articles to see which kinds of articles had the most sharing. What he found was that the most successful articles had some kind of emotional trigger. They produced feelings of delight, astonishment, excitement, awe or anger.
To see how this plays out in practice, consider a hypothetical article, but with two very different titles. One title is “Donald Trump Seeking To Reduce Budget Spending By 10%.” The other title is, “Donald Trump is Going to Cut Barack Obama’s Favorite Government Program and You Won’t Believe By How Much.” Which one would you click on? Which one would you share? It’s easy to see that the second title creates a very emotional response, and is almost impossible not to click on.
#2: Content that is visually engaging
There is an old adage in the world of blogging, and that’s that every great blog post needs to have a great visual. In most cases, that visual is an image. But it could also be a video clip, an infographic or a chart. And it goes beyond just having a nice image – SEO search experts have crunched the data and determined that the image must sit “above the fold.” In other words, you shouldn’t have to scroll down the page to see the visual – it should be one of the first things you see. And, if you absolutely, positively can’t find a good image for your content, at least break it up with sub-headlines and bullet lists. The content needs to be visually engaging.
#3: Content that is already liked, shared and commented on
On the Internet, popularity breeds more popularity. It is much more likely that a content that has been “liked” 1,000 times will be liked and shared than content that has only been liked 100 times. This is the way the Internet works, primarily thanks to the algorithms that social networks like Facebook uses. That’s why it’s imperative to give each new piece of content a little push as it goes out the door, if you would like it to start trending. The “decay rate” of content is extraordinarily fast.
In other words, if nobody has shared your content within the first hour or two of it being created, good luck. Chances are, no matter what you do, it won’t ever go viral. That’s why, if you listen to a podcast or watch a video, the creator will almost always ask you to “like” it. Likes beget likes. So if you have a favorite podcast or YouTube video channel, always be sure to “like” the content. It’s one of the best ways you can help a digital content creator without giving him or her a tip!
Based on these three guidelines, it’s possible to re-engineer some engaging, shareable content. There’s no guarantee that it will go viral – but if you can inject a little emotion into your post and back it up with a great visual, chances are, people are going to want to share it.