How to make your content go viral

It is all very well, spending time crafting an engaging and thoughtful piece of content, but if no-one sees it, why invest the time? You do not want to spend a large budget paying for ads to promote it and you cannot rely on sharing it with your own contacts each time, as you wish to expand your reach.

So, how can you get more people to see the content that you have created?

First of all, you need to publish the content in a place and in a format that can be found. There is no point in uploading a pdf of your content, since Google cannot find it. It is much better to host your content in a Google friendly location, such as a blog or on your web site. It is worth spending some time understanding how Google ranks content, so you can create it in a Google friendly way. This SEMrush article entitled “on page SEO checklist” ( help.

Once your content is posted, then you need to share it in as many organic (or free) ways as possible. Post links to your content on Linked In, Twitter, Facebook and all of the other social channels that you use. Don’t just post it once. The best content marketers will post links to the same articles many times (each with a different title) to encourage as many people as possible to click on the link. This is called social amplification. Don’t forget to share your content in all other comms too, such as in email newsletters and on webinars and podcasts if you have them.

Finally, the most important stage, making it go viral. We call this influencing the influencers. Think about what types of content people share. What are their motivations and how can you create content that they will want to share. Jeff Bullas wrote an excellent blog entitled “How to go viral” ( and in it he quotes a New York Times study, which analyses why people share content.

Their top 5 reasons are:

I would add to that. In my experience, people are very conscious of their persona brand. They ask themselves, “what will people think of me when I post this?”. Think about this every time you create content. Will sharing that content make sharers look better or feel better about themselves? People like to be seen as a good parent, or a caring consumer, or an intelligent business expert etc. Does sharing your content help them to be perceived as they want to be remembered by others?

Jeff Bullas quotes the psychological research behind this. Here is an extract from his blog post:

“When looking for the philosopher’s stone of ‘virality’, you will notice that every study and research conducted about this topic agrees upon four main influencing factors:

  • Emotional appeal
  • Value/usefulness
  • Originality
  • Outreach

One of the best-known studies is that of Milkman and Berger who explored what exactly makes content spread like wildfire and whether virality can be achieved deliberately.

They found that content that entices high-arousal emotions (either positive or negative) is more effective than content that doesn’t evoke emotions. This finding reflects the common motives for sharing such as the need to connect, feel involved and support causes that matter to us.

They also found that positive content is generally more successful than negative content. That’s a bit surprising, right? I personally would have thought negative content would rule the scene given the much-sought ‘scandal’ factor of negative news. But then again, when you think about it, the act of ‘sharing’ is intrinsically linked to our personal image therefore we want to appear to provide positive value to others.”

Campaigns that go viral tend to have an emotional connection with their audience. When training, we often share case studies from the Cannes Lions awards that have achieved great success through viral sharing and influencing influencers. Our favourite examples can be found on our YouTube channel.

Here is a video that I believe sums up the value of emotional appeal in the content idea:

So, in summary:

  • Create content that appeals emotionally
  • Make it easy to share
  • Make the sharer look good by sharing it
  • Amplify it in your organic social media
  • Influence the influencers

Nick Baggott, July 16th 2019.