For a while now, the Holy Grail of online content has been to create a viral photo, video or blog post. Although creating content that spreads isn’t the only goal of content creation, it is a very useful way of increasing reach and growing brand awareness.

In his book ‘Contagious‘, Jonah Berger highlights the key elements of viral content. The book is based on in-depth research into the characteristics of videos, blogs, adverts, photos and ideas that have spread organically. He then boiled it down to six key characteristics that marketers can use to create viral content.

  • Social Value: We often share things that will make us look better in some way. Social currency, or social value is the idea that something will benefit us, socially. So, if we would like to be seen as funny, we will share funny posts. If we would like to be seen as knowledgeable on politics, we will share political posts.
  • Triggers: These are things which evoke other thoughts. So when you think of gin, you are likely to think of tonic, or when you think of fish, you think of chips. Social value gets things shared initially, but triggers keep us thinking about them.
  • Emotion: When we care about something, we are more likely to share it, so look for an emotional element in your content (anger, excitement, awe etc.) and emphasize that as much as possible.
  • Practical Value: This is possibly the simplest element of viral content. If it is useful to us or people we know, we are more likely to share it.
  • Public: This almost goes without saying, but for something to be shared, it needs to be publicly viewable, so be sure to check your social media privacy settings.
  • Stories: A story can work as a capsule for information. It can (and should) be simple, but needs a beginning, a middle and an end. Advertisers often use stories in their adverts, with a famous example being the John Lewis Christmas adverts, but it is key to make sure your product, brand or service is key to the narrative, so whenever anyone tells the story, they will mention you.

One key point is that you don’t necessarily need all of those elements in order to create viral content. The more of these you can include, the better.

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