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4 Ways to Create Viral Content without Selling Your Soul

By Stephen Altrogge

I hate clickbait. It’s the worst.

You won’t believe what happened next! I was crying by the 3:21 mark! What he said next caught everyone by surprise!

Odds are, I will believe what happened, I won’t be crying, and I won’t be caught by surprise. Actually, I’ll probably be punching my computer screen because I wasted my time on a stupid article. Ain’t nobody got time for clickbait.

This raises the question: is it possible to create viral content without stooping to clickbait tactics?

It sure is. In this article, I’m going to give you 4 steps for creating viral content without giving away your dignity.

Create Really Good Content

This first point is obvious, but it has to be said. Two types of content go viral: really dumb content (usually cat videos or listicles) and really good content. Really dumb content belongs to the clickbait slumlords. Leave the memes to them.

If you want to go viral and still feel good about yourself, you need to be willing to spend time crafting high-value content. It doesn’t have to be War and Peace, but it does need to contain valuable insights that are actually your reader’s time.

As Noah Kagan over at OkDork pointed out, long form content gets significantly more shares than short content:

[m]ost people just aren’t willing to create in-depth, well-researched articles packed with insights. They just don’t want to put in the time and effort. Which means there’s probably a lot more opportunities for you to do so. Because there just isn’t as many long-form content creators to compete with.

This means that creating viral content isn’t that hard, but it does take hard work. If you’re willing to craft a high-value article that delivers loads of actionable insights, you’re on the path to going viral.

This 8,500 word WordPress Bloggers Bible is a great example of fantastic long form content. This Ultimate Guide To Starting And Growing Your Business is another brilliant example.

Really good content isn’t fluff or fudge. It’s usually pretty long, and it should be busting at the seams with content that can be put into practice right away.

Craft Really Good Headlines

You’re scrolling through your Facebook feed, eyes glossed over as thousands of pictures, status updates, and articles zip past you.

What does it take to jerk you out of your drool-producing stupor?

In order to get your attention, it must be interesting, arresting, or captivating. It must stand out from the blitz of memes and absurd “Which Goonies Character Are You?” quizzes. It has to grab you by the digital collar and give you a digital slap across the face.

So how can you get your content to stand out?

You craft a really good headline.

Now, this is where you must tread a bit carefully. Clickbait headlines catch your attention, but they fail to deliver.

If you want to go viral, you must craft a clear, compelling, authentic headline that truly does grab the attention and delivers what it promises.

The copywriting ninjas over at Copyblogger offer some great formulas for headlines. These formulas include:

  • Who else wants [blank]?
  • The secret of [blank]
  • Little known ways to [blank]
  • Get rid of [problem] once for all
  • And more.

Your headline is one of the primary things that will stand out on social media. It’s what causes your content to stand out amidst a sea of stupidity. Don’t settle for a mediocre headline.

If you need help crafting a good headline, check out the Headline Analyzer.

Be Funny (Without Trying Too Hard)

Before I make this point, I need to include one massive caveat. Don’t try too hard to be funny. Nothing is worse than being that awkward guy who keeps trying to make jokes and can’t see that his jokes aren’t funny. If you’re not naturally a funny person, don’t suddenly try to become Steve Carell.

But, if you do happen to be a generally fun/funny/amusing person, I’ve got some good news for you. An analysis of the top 10,000 most shared articles on the web showed that laughter and amusement accounted for more than 25% of them.

Popular emotions

We are constantly bombarded by soul-sucking, awful news. If your content can make someone smile, chuckle, chortle, or laugh their a$$ off, there’s a good chance they’ll share it. If you need further proof of this, look no further than The Onion. They specialize in content that produces laughs, which in turn goes viral.

The Onion

This ad by Dollar Shave Club is another example of the viral power of humor. How could you not want to buy razors from these guys?

If you want your content to go viral, make it smileable (a word I just made up). Sprinkle it with personality and authenticity. People love to share a laugh or a smile.

Publish Your Content on Tuesday Mornings

Yes, when you publish your content matters just as much as the content itself. A study by Buffer showed that the best time to publish is in the morning, due to the fact that you’re competing with less overall social media noise.

The most popular time to tweet is also the time when there is the highest volume of tweets, perhaps making it a bit more difficult for your tweet to stand out in someone’s timeline.

A study by BuzzSumo showed that content published on Tuesday morning got the most shares.

This means that your best shot at going viral is Tuesday mornings (not to be confused with Tuesdays With Morrie).

Conclusion

It is possible to create viral content without giving your soul to Buzzfeed. It requires time, thought, and hard work, but it’s possible. And the resulting spike in traffic and incoming leads will be more than adequate payback for the time you spent creating the content.

Now if you’ll excuse me, you’re never going to believe what happens next.

  • http://uk.linkedin.com/in/karlbrownactor Karl Brown

    I haven’t managed to read the entire article as I keep getting a massive banner ad forcing the page down every time I scroll, but what I have read so far (down to the mention of the “WordPress Blogger’s Bible”) is good. One note to the editor, though, there’s a missing word in the second paragraph of that section:
    “It doesn’t have to be War and Peace, but it does need to contain valuable insights that are actually your reader’s time.” – I’m guessing it should be “…worth your reader’s time”?

  • jason

    Wait, you thought the Dollar Shave Club ad was good? It was 100% a ripoff of the Old Spice ads. I only even remember that ad because it was such a blatant theft of that concept, that I said I would never buy from them because of it. Now when Old Spice did it, that definitely had the effect you’re talking about.

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