What Makes Content Go Viral?

It’s the million dollar (or ‘like’) question. How do we develop content that is certain to go viral? We all want this kind of exposure, and it takes some planning and thought, although sometimes you just get lucky. But what steps can you take to get the maximum shares and interactions possible? Here are a few key components:


Take a look at your personal Facebook feed. Especially in the wake of the Paris attacks, the content making waves around the Internet right now is highly emotional. Whether it’s sadness, anger, frustration, or even hope, emotion is the common denominator in posts, memes, and videos.

Depending on the type of product or service you offer, buying trends are more emotional than ever. Consumers are looking for transparency, and to not be “sold” to. Consider creating content that is relevant but not directly ‘selling’ your product/service. A great example is Apple’s television commercial from Christmas 2013, seen below.


We all know baby animals are killer on the Internet. Cats are working to take over the world, one video at a time. What is it about those furballs that we love so much? They’re entertaining. This isn’t to say you should go out and film your cat missing a long jump from the kitchen island to the top of the refrigerator, but consider what viewers get out of watching such a video. Laughter, tears of joy, and perhaps the aching desire to place a cucumber behind your cat to see just how high it will jump.

Evian launched a hugely successful campaign whose commercial went viral with nearly 71 million views. Highly entertaining, this commercial showed adults in their “pure” baby form, dancing up a storm. The results are hilarious.


Probably the most important component to viral content is its shock value. This doesn’t necessarily mean a scary kind of shock, although it could depending on your final intent. This could mean graphics that show something out of the ordinary, or content created to lead the viewer in one direction while presenting a twist at the end. Unexpected means memorable, and if you’ve created the right content, your ad will be the latest buzz at the water cooler.

In the below examples, Lego sparks your imagination, Italian boys teach us an important value, and Skittles is just so weird they tend to shock us into saying “was that a real commercial?” But you remember them…



Consider the timing when deciding on a launch date for your content. If your content is emotional, timing your campaign around more emotional times of year, such as Christmas, can be highly impactful. Avoid publishing something that may be the opposite emotion to what is trending on the web at the time. And don’t forget to hashtag your content. By attaching a hashtag, you will be able to track shares and interactions for more in-depth analysis of your campaign.


There are many aspects to viral content; these ideas noted above are just a few. Let your imagination run, and don’t be afraid to be bold. Consumers are looking for content they can absorb and talk about. Listen to them. Feed them.

Need some ideas? Give me a shout; I’ll be more than happy to help!