Viral Campaigns: The Recipe to Success

  • Volvo truck ad
  • Volvo truck ad

"Content goes viral if it spreads very fast on the internet, just like a flu virus would in real life. The content itself can be an article, a blog, a picture, or a video, but it must be very funny, controversial or thought-provoking so that people feel an urge to talk about it or share it on social media"

Wouldn't it be great, if there was a recipe to make content go viral? How hard can it be? After all, hasn't everybody shared a video of a puppy? The truth is it's difficult. Even if you are very good and have awe inspiring content – it's still hard and there is never a guarantee that good content will go viral. Nonetheless all viral content has common denominators and posts can be equipped with the potential to pick up coverage across the digital landscape. Here is what you should consider:

Get your foot in the door with the right title

First impressions count! The right title can create interest and set expectations. Looking at what kind of headlines have worked well, there seems to be quite a few points to keep in mind when thinking of titles for your story.

  • "Wife came home early from work. She did not expect to find this!"
  • "Watch this video of a boy standing up to his bullies!"
  • "13 epic parenting fails that will make you feel better!"
  • "This picture will restore your faith in humanity"
  • "Which country pays nurses what they are worth?"

These are some examples of content that has gone viral and show how to create headlines that

  • Pique the readers curiosity
  • Arouse emotions
  • Are bold
  • Ask questions
  • Are relatable
  • Use direct action words

Just don't do this:

Viral content campaigns

Create content with the intent to blow peoples minds (and hearts)

Ask yourself what the last post was that you shared on social media? What kind of content makes people share? After a quick look on my Facebook timeline I remembered the last post I shared with my friends was this:

viral content

That particular episode of Game of Thrones made me incredibly frustrated and I had an inkling that anyone else who watched this episode would feel the same way. The trigger for sharing that was my frustration. Content that arouses emotions has a higher chance of going viral. We share what makes us laugh and sometimes also content that makes us so angry that we have to click it. Regardless of whether the content creates a positive or negative emotional response – emotions are an essential element of a successful viral marketing campaign.

According to a study from the University of Indiana viral behaviour is influenced by our primary emotions:

  • Surprise – make a bold claim and offer your audience something unexpected
  • Fear – is an emotion you should be careful with when creating content, as it can backfire and as marketers we need to manage our clients brand perception. When using fear as a motivator you should include solutions that solve the issue you have generated.
  • Joy – positive content is more likely to go viral than negative content. Everybody has a different sense of humour and it is therefore very difficult to make funny content that fits in with the brand your'e working on.
  • Anger –  have you ever thought about making your audience disagree with your message? This tactic will definitely grab the readers attention.
  • Disgust – for the sake of your client I would recommend you find another way to emotionally engage your audience!

Optimise your content for Social Media

Did you know that on a daily basis there are 350 million photos uploaded on Facebook, 4.5 billion likes, and 10 billion messages sent? Thats right! As the established king of social media networks Facebook is the safest bet to promote your content. There are tons of amazing content lying around on timelines which dont ever really take off. So, how do you optimise a post for Facebook?

Lets have a look at how BuzzFeed do it:

BuzzFeed on a Facebook

All the hard work is done, whats next?

You can promote your content to your best abilities, but whether it will take social media platforms by storm is also down to a great deal of luck. Did you also know that one of the most viral campaigns of 2013 was Van Dammes epic split? You cant predict what's going viral, so do a Jean-Claude and stay Damme cool!


Jean Claude truck splits