Viral articles are the love of many social media users and are more likely to be shared. The psychology of why people share content can be very different. It might be to increase their working or social relationship with others, it could be a form of attention, popularity, increase in self-esteem; or it could simply be shared as a way to inform other people of certain things they may or may not already know about.
A lot of ad campaigns have tried to capitalise on the enormous popularity that viral content brings. Research data from Pew Research shows that Facebook, which is the largest and most used social network, is the best platform for a post to go viral. The next most shared platform is Pinterest, followed by Twitter and LinkedIn.
Brendan Wilde, Marketing Manager at Discount Domains (who went viral with a post about the cheap names) thinks that it isn’t just the post that dictates the success or failure of a viral campaign. “We found Facebook amazing”, he said. “We just created a great post with the right tags, a clicky headline, emotional content and it spread like wildfire. Why it went viral we don’t really know. We’ve tried to recreate the success with a mix of results. All I can surmise is that timing plays a massive role in the success of any post. Context and luck are crucial part of the equation.”
For an article to have the potential to go viral though, it certainly needs to posses a unique quality that makes people want to view it a numerous amount of times. The trick with this mostly lies in the ability to create a headline capable of catching viewers’ attention as it is what people tend to notice first. The headline already makes the content stand out before it is viewed and goes viral.
Here are some headline types that are most likely to help an article go viral.
2. List Posts: These are posts that usually provide a numerical list of things.
4. Resource Posts: These are large formats of curated content or lengthy guides that have been created to provide solutions to specific problems.
5. Heart-to-Heart Posts: If you need your audience to feel something along the lines of, “Come listen to my deepest thoughts,” or, “I’m about to share one of my darkest tales with you,” then heart-to-heart posts are your go-to.
So for an article to go viral, it has been shown that its headline must contain a contagious element that can help it spread, as well as an infectious agent that can trigger an emotional response from the readers such as: shock, lust, anger, joy, surprise, anxiety, fear or awe. Now, putting all of this together, let’s take a look at some of the most successful viral articles and examine why they worked.
Headline Type: Heart-to-Heart Post; Infectious Agent: Anxiety
Ever since Donald Trump was inaugurated as President of The United States in January 2017, not a day goes by on social media that you’re unlikely come across a post concerning the man himself. People take to social media to support certain causes, define who they are, bring joy to their friends, etc.
It is no surprise that a political post has to be one of the most viral articles. Published as an open letter on Huffington Post, this article got shared a total of 2.2 million times across Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Domain Links.
Headline Type: Heart-to-Heart Post; Infectious Agent: Awe, Surprise, Shock, Fear
A post from Jonathan Morrow with a headline strategically designed to pull at the heartstrings and inspire a fight-for-your-dreams response from the reader. It makes an emotional plea by using strong heartfelt words like dying, mothers and fighting to conjure images of struggle or failure. With over four thousand shares on Facebook and a thousand on Twitter, this article utilises emotion to get people clicking.
Headline Type: List Post; Infectious Agent: Anger, Shock, Surprise, Fear
With a headline containing words such as belief-shaking, it already challenges you by telling you it’s contents can possibly shake your beliefs. This brings on a sense of curiosity, anger or even fear for those whose beliefs are deeply personal. This article from Raptitude raked in over 14,000 shares on Facebook alone. Readers are challenged in this article as it presents an unconventional opinion of someone who doesn’t care or is unafraid to do what they need in order to change the world—someone who carries out what most people want to do but end up only saying without action.
Headline Type: Question Post, Infectious Agent: Awe, Surprise
With over 2 million shares on Facebook, this post uses scientific research to appeal to the general bald audience, giving them reassurance by portraying examples of famous bald men and the preferences of various women as a means of raising their confidence. Since most men tend to lose some of their hair when they turn 50 and some earlier than that. The general target audience becomes men, making it a post that will continue to be shared as long as men keep losing hair. Bald Men Are Sexier
Headline Type: List Posts, Infectious Agents: Joy, Awe
Anyone interested in photography or in possession of a camera will already have their attention directed toward this post. With over 419,000 shares on Facebook and about 22,000 shares on Pinterest, this article gives information that can make a novice camera user more confident by informing them about certain tricks and techniques that they should know about if they don’t intend on being left out in the photography world.
Headline Type: Heart-to-Heart Posts, Infectious Agents: Joy, Sadness
With over 1.5 million shares on Facebook, we get to see that most users enjoy sharing heart-warming articles and this article was definitely one of them. Highlighting the encounter that took place between a 4-year-old girl and an elderly widower at a grocery store, this one is aimed to pull at readers’ heartstrings.
Successful companies make use of viral videos because they possess something exciting and engaging that people can relate to. They are usually random but carefully adjusted for marketing campaign use. Some companies release many videos but only some of them get to go viral because of their distinct characteristics. Here are some successful Viral Marketing Ads.
The original Old Spice advert released in 2010 contained many hilarious outs that made marketers everywhere want to work with them. It currently has 54 million views.
A favorite amongst the public and marketers alike, Evian’s baby campaign was hugely successful and also included an app that had users create their own baby image. The viral video has over 96 million views.
In an effort to promote the movie Carrie, a coffee shop in New York was transformed with hidden cameras to capture shoppers’ reactions to what they perceived to be telekinesis. The video currently has 67 million views on YouTube.
Volvo released a video of action movie star Jean-Claude Van Damme performing the splits on two reversing Volvo trucks. The video was released as a way to demonstrate the stability of Volvo trucks’ steering wheels and quickly gained popularity with over 86.7 million views
After market research carried out in 2004 by Unilever revealed only about 4% of women considered themselves as beautiful, Dove worked to change that perception, using the research data to decipher what women perceived beauty to be, they were able to create viral videos like the interview piece where mothers and daughters discussed female beauty. Their campaign became popular and went viral because it was relatable and connected with people’s view of female beauty norms.
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