Did you check out the numbers on yesterday's post? It's going viral!

As long as it's getting attention for the right reasons, these words are music to a marketer's ears. Who wouldn't want an instant audience of millions liking and sharing your content?

But I got to thinking:

  • What value does viral content really bring to a brand?
  • What strategies can contribute to building the "snowball effect" that leads to content going viral?

The truth is, getting your content to go viral is no easy task. I spoke recently with the folks at Alexa, a company that uses rich data analysis to produce actionable insights. They performed an in-depth analysis of content that's recently gone viral to answer the questions above.

In this guest post, Jennifer Johnson, Marketing Coordinator at Alexa, breaks it all down.

Here's Jennifer:

Posting something online and hoping it'll do well can often feel like playing the Powerball--how do you make sure something will go viral?

The answer, of course, is that you can't guarantee virality. There's no surefire way to guarantee your content will spread like wildfire, but there are strategies that can boost a business's online presence.

Our team at Alexa took a look at viral posts from smaller, less prominent websites and analyzed how virality affected social media shares, global traffic rank, and page views.  We used Alexa's competitive intelligence tool to analyze the website traffic and other metrics. What effect does virality have on a brand, and how can it be achieved?

The Power of a Positive Message

A father writes an empowering, heartwarming song for his young daughter after finding out she's being bullied at school. It ends up garnering nearly 10 million views on YouTube. Faithtap.com shared the video with the headline "Dad Sings Anti-Bullying Song to Daughter."

The lyrics are catchy and sweet:

Bullies who talk about your weight, color, and size/

But beauty comes in every size, color, and shape/

And your beauty can't be measured with that measuring tape.

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Within a week, Faithtap's reach and page views doubled. The site's global ranking jumped by 43 percent a few months later.

An important takeaway from this success story: Know your audience.

​Faithtap is primarily frequented by middle-aged women with families. An inspirational video that teaches children to love themselves will undoubtedly resonate with the parents who make up the site's audience.  

A whopping 92 percent of Faithtap's traffic comes from social media, so a four-minute video with an emotional hook is a smart move. The video was shared on Facebook more than 1 million times.

When a Public Service Announcement Has Major Impact

It's no secret that texting and driving is dangerous. But how do you make that message sink in? AT&T released a short film that shows the terrifying impact of distracted driving--a mother glances at her smartphone with her daughter in the car and causes a horrific crash. The clip then plays slowly in reverse to show how the accident could've been avoided.

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Creativity Online--a website that showcases creative ad content--shared the advertising campaign last July with the headline "A Mom's Social Media Post Shatters Lives in AT&T's Gut-Wrenching Ad." Three days after the site published the post, Creativity Online's reach went up sevenfold and page views increased eightfold. The site's global ranking increased 29 percent over the next three months.

Something to learn here: You can use surprise to your advantage.

Even though the headline gives away what will happen in the video, the accident still shocks the viewer after the emotional build-up. Paying attention to current social issues--there's a 1 in 4 chance today that a car crash involves a cellphone--is also a great way to engage your readers.

A Celebrity Quote Listicle is Widely Shared

Publishing an article in list form might feel a little bit like clickbait, but if it's done well, it can make a major difference for your brand. Millennial-focused Mic.com published a listicle with actress Amy Poehler's most empowering quotes: "14 Quotes That Prove Amy Poehler Gives the World's Best Advice."

It was shared on Facebook more than 7,600 times. After the article went live, Mic's page views quadrupled. Its global rank increased 22 percent. Not bad for an article made up entirely of third-party quotes.

So what's the takeaway?

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Pop culture references and universally popular topics can help rack up shares. Mic shared quotes with a focus on self-worth and self-love--something that's sure to matter to the website's millennial audience.

Additionally, a catchy headline can bring clicks. Of course, if you promise something in your headline, be sure to deliver: Don't alienate your audience with a bait and switch.

Knowing your site's demographics and doing research beforehand gives you a competitive advantage. There's no magic formula for virality, but there are factors within your control. Make your mark on social media with content that's easily digestible and shareable.

Published on: Apr 22, 2016
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