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If you’ve ever tried to create viral content, you know that this is no easy task.
You can create awesome content, write passionately about what you love, work hard to promote it—and still not get the number of shares you were hoping for.
Rather than give up on getting your message heard, why not try implementing some tried-and-true methods used by the masters on creating irresistibly shareable content?
While there’s no foolproof formula for getting a million plus shares, certain techniques will almost always produce better results than simply sharing your posts on social media and hoping for the best.
To help you on your path to becoming a Web sensation, we’ve compiled a list of 10 things you probably didn’t know or haven’t been doing to increase the number of views and shares your content receives on a regular basis.
It generally takes only about a few seconds for someone to judge whether they want to continue browsing your site or go somewhere else.
The first impression is what counts and this is largely determined by the visual elements you use, as noted by the online marketing guru Derek Halpern.
Besides choosing a color palette and a combination of fonts that best communicates your message—up to 60 percent of your site’s approval rating depends on your color scheme—it’s also vital to break up text-heavy content with images, infographics, and videos.
In a study of over 100 million articles, the content analytics company Buzzsumo found that twice as many people share posts on Facebook with at least one image in the content than those without any images.
They also found that users are 30 times more likely to read an infographic than a text-based article. Actually, when compared to all other types of content, infographics are the most shared, as seen in the chart below.
Contrary to popular belief, videos are shared less than other visuals such as static images and infographics. According to the award-winning social media strategist Rebekah Radice, users tweet pictures 361 percent more than they tweet videos, while images get 128 percent more retweets than videos.
When it comes to promoting content on social media channels, posts with thumbnail images also fared far better than those with only text. Articles with a Facebook preview image had three times as many shares and likes than those without.
One of the most surefire ways to create contagious content and stand out from the rest is to provide an interactive, immersive, and personalized experience for the viewer.
Nowadays, a catchy listicle or how-to piece just won’t cut it. Users—especially millennials—are barraged with content clamoring for a second of their attention, so you want to make yours dynamic and unique.
Granted, this can take more time and resources to produce, but your viewers will reward you for it. Take this highly provocative and personalized campaign, which has been viewed and liked by more than 15 million Facebook users.
Many online publications have caught on to this trend and have produced some incredible, awe-inspiring pieces seen here. While all of them use advanced effects such as parallax scrolling, interactive graphics, and multimedia elements, you don’t have to be an expert to create your own interactive story. You can use longform tools such as Story.AM and press75.com to put together text, multimedia elements, and images, and design your own interactive infographics with Visme.
If you add fractal content to this mix, then you really have a recipe for virality in your hands. Defined as user-generated content that allows viewers to create their own viral content using your site, it can come in the form of apps such as Elfyourself.com and Fatbooth.
Interactive quizzes are another guaranteed social media hit. They allow users to learn more about themselves and produce results that are irresistibly share-worthy. What City Should You Actually Live In?, for example, has gotten nearly 21 million views.
Although it may seem counterintuitive in a fast-paced digital age, longer content actually gets more shares than shorter pieces. According to Buzzsumo, 3,000 to 10,000 word pieces are shared the most, while content shorter than 1,000 words is shared the least.
At the same time, there is 16 times more content in the 1000-word category than in the 3,000- to 10,000-word range. So, if you want greater visibility and more backlinks, take advantage of the fact that there is much less competition in the longform category.
In a world full of negativity, content that elicits positive emotions such as awe, laughter, and amusement is much more popular than that which arouses sadness.
Berger concluded that there are six emotions elicited by viral content: awe, anger, surprise, anxiety/fear, joy, and lust. Controversial topics and articles that zero in on any form of injustice can easily become viral, as in this case. Here are also some noteworthy examples of surprising and delightful content.
So, the key here is to surprise your readers, provide the unexpected, and don’t play it too safe.
In order to trigger the emotions described above, you must really know your audience. Besides the typical demographic and geographical information, find out: What makes them tick? What makes them laugh? Where do they hang out? What angers them? Who do they want to be like?
Once you know exactly who you’re targeting, a written caricature of that person will help you find the right tone and format for your piece, according to Kissmetrics. Whether a riveting in-depth feature, a humorous short piece, a practical blog post, or an entertaining quiz, there are many options to choose from depending on your reader/viewer.
One way to quickly boost your views is to have someone like Guy Kawasaki, Ann Handley or Seth Godin—among the top social media influencers—share or retweet your content. Just involve them in the creation of your content by asking them for a quote to use in your article or link to a piece they wrote on your topic of interest.
A nifty app by Buzzsumo allows you to search for a piece of content on a topic you want to write about and view all the influencers who shared the piece. By reaching out to these social media heavyweights—possibly even interviewing them—there is a high probability that they will retweet or share content they were involved in creating.
A study conducted by the New York Times uncovered many of the reasons and motivations behind why people share certain content. They found that users share content that builds their online personas and makes them look good in front of their peers.
For example, many people were more likely to share content that made them look smart, in-the-know, thought-provoking, altruistic, original, cool or creative.
Others shared uplifting content to brighten others’ day, help others with practical advice, or to stay connected with close friends, family and those with similar interests.
So, if you’re looking to targets specific types of sharers, you should create content that is useful, actionable, provocative, insightful and/or linked to a certain cause or identity group.
Users are interested in reading and viewing content created by real people—not faceless entities. One of the easiest ways to build trust in the reader/viewer is by including a short bio and picture of yourself in your footer.
As noted by Derek Halpern, users want to connect with people they “know, like and trust.” Also, an easy way to get readers/viewers to build trust in your content is to interview experts on your topic of interest.
You can go even as far as digital marketer Ryan Deiss, who bases his successful strategy not on building an authoritative online voice, but on leveraging his associations with the experts who are already well-known in a particular field.
Nowadays, stale content is simply not going to attract the masses. To increase your visibility—as well as secure backlinks from authoritative sites—it is important to publish exclusive content such as survey results and original data-driven articles.
As with the previous suggestions, this doesn’t require loads of resources or expertise that’s beyond your reach. According to social media marketer Jeff Bullas, you can use free survey tools to conduct informal studies, as well as public API’s and your organization’s own internal database to disseminate information concerning your field that has not been published before.
One of the most important elements of your content is the headline: it can make or break a story. So, to make sure that your readers follow you from beginning to end, find a headline that will both pique curiosity and convince readers of the need to keep reading.
If you don’t have time to brainstorm great ideas for very blog post or you need help getting started, try creating a headline swipe file to inspire content ideas. You can find dozens of awesome blog post title templates here and even a blog topic generator by HubSpot here.
Finally, don’t forget to tell an interesting story—if it’s personal, even better. Tons of research shows that messages with a plot and characters who are easy to identify with are far more engaging and immersive than non-narrative messages, as proven by the global popularity of this Thai mobile ad.