Going Viral: Creating Contagious Content

Have you ever wondering what makes something go viral? Is there a secret? What do viral-video makers know that you don’t? Learn the what and how of going viral and a few tips for what you can do to make your content more contagious.

Going Viral: The What and How of Creating Contagious Content

It was my niece’s first birthday and her mother threw a party, inviting the whole family to join in on the celebration. Everyone was excited to share in the festivities but the morning before the party, people began cancelling saying they weren’t feeling well.

But this was my niece’s first birthday! A big O-N-E!

With much pressure on, the family came together to save the party. Those who were feeling sort of better were encouraged to show up anyway and give my niece the party she deserved.

So they came.

And it was a lovely time. Good food, good conversations, good feelings all around.

Later that evening…

I haven’t vomited from being ill since I was a child. But vomit I did, from midnight till 8 a.m. the next morning. Who was the culprit? No real idea, since there were a few people at the party who weren’t feeling 100 per cent and we spent the day switching children, changing seats, and grabbing snacks from the same bowls.

And I learned I wasn’t the only one—most of the other non-sick party-goers spent the next day beside the toilet.

It all happened so fast. One moment we were minding our own business, living life like normal, and the next we were swept up into a wave of vomit-filled illness by no fault of our own except for attending the party and enjoying ourselves.

What happened? Our party went viral.


What does “going viral” mean?

Sans vomiting, going viral in Internet terms is seen as a good thing. It’s what happens when a piece of content (article, photo, video, etc.) is shared, copied, and otherwise spread across social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

How many shares does it take before something is considered viral?

I’m sorry to say, there isn’t an exact number. Viral status is achieved when the proportion of people seeing the content and then sharing it increases over what’s usual.

I know, could it be more vague?

Think of viral sharing like a secret. If you share a secret with someone, and that person shares it with someone else and then another, and another, then pretty soon everyone knows your secret. But if the person keeps your secret, that’s where the sharing ends. It’s safe, and no one knows about it.

The simple math of virality

Viral content is relative. When you share a piece of content on social media, how many shares is normal? If you see your shares go up from normal on a couple posts, you can consider those viral. However, if your shares go up and stay up—then it’s the new normal. Not viral anymore.

The more complicated math of true viral content

Of course, a few extra shares here and there doesn’t make a big impact. We want to know about the life-changing kind of viral content like Chewbacca Mom’s laughing video or Mandy Harey’s deaf singing audition for America’s Got Talent. How do you get those?

The next level of viral content

When you level up on going viral this is where stuff happens. On day one a piece of content is shared and you receive your regular likes, shares, and website visits, plus a few extras. This (according to ShareProgress) is called “first generation.” From there, a few of these first generation people share your content on their social channels and some of their friends check it out. They’re called “second generation.” By the second generation there should be more likes, shares, and website visits. Now it’s on the second generation of visitors to share your content. If a few more than the first round do this, then the third generation of visitors should be seeing your content. If this continues then you’ll see exponential likes, shares, and website visits. This is where things get crazy.

In the simple viral example, you’ll have a bump of activity and then things will go back to normal. In the next level of going viral, the momentum grows and keeps growing and, if you’re prepared for it, sends your life in a new direction.


How do I make something go viral?

Yeah, sorry. I don’t know how. Actually, I don’t think anyone does. No matter how many terms I Google, all I come up with is “there’s no formula, there’s no secret.”

But here are a few things you can do to help your content be ready for going viral.

People are more likely to share something if…

  • they have a strong reaction to it
  • they have a positive emotional response to it
  • they feel inspired by it
  • they are surprised by it
  • they find it practical and useful
  • they think it will help someone

Where to go from here

Before you write an article don’t think about what will or won’t make it go viral, instead think about what will help and inspire your audience. Think about what they’d like to read/watch/hear and then create it. Be genuine, be real, and be positive.

Here’s how Derek Halpern says it.

Positive uplifting content always gets shared. Remember, there’s a lot of unhappy people in the world, and while there are different reasons for being unhappy, content that is uplifting and inspirational helps people get out of their rut…even if it’s only for a few seconds.

I don’t know about you, but I’d sure like to help someone out of their rut today.

Going Viral: The What and How of Creating Contagious Content. Have you ever wondering what makes something go viral? Is there a secret? What do viral-video makers know that you don't? Learn the what and how of viral content and a few tips for what you can do to make your content more contagious.

If you need help coming up with content ideas or don’t know who you’re audience is, that’s where I come in. Drop me a line and let’s start a conversation. I’m here to help!