Crafting the Perfect Viral Share

secret to viral sharing

Crafting the perfect viral share

If sharing is caring, then we’re all head-over-heels in love with social media. It’s not just Facebook anymore, there are hundreds of social platforms besides, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and LinkedIn where we’re meeting and greeting new friends all over the world. While these platforms create a great place for sharing cat videos, pictures of what we had for lunch, and talking about our last vacation, businesses use social media as a way to engage with customers and prospects. Sharing amplifies a business message, while making it more relevant because the share comes from others in your social network.

Sharing is the core of these sites and often, given the right set of circumstances, you can create the perfect viral share. Once associated with disease, the term viral now has a more positive definition. Rather than the spreading of germs, it’s now images, videos, content, and other material spreading rapidly from one user to the next.

The ability of free or low cost sharing of information reaching millions of people is a marketer’s dream come true, so how can we create the perfect viral share?

Interesting, Very Interesting

Back in the sixties, comedian Arte Johnson gave us many a chuckle on the popular show “Laugh In” when he carefully examined something irrelevant or just plain stupid and still found it “interesting, very interesting.” Drawing on this, crafting the perfect viral share happens when the content is practical, surprising or interesting in some way. A study of the most emailed articles from The New York Times (shown in the infographic below) found these topics common in shares by their readers.

I Want Some More

Oliver Twist surprised and saddened us when he made the bold statement, “Please Sir, I want some more” to his cruel master in the Dickens classic. According to research, our audience is also happier with more, rather than less. Articles with fewer than one thousand words get much less attention than their lengthier counterparts — weighing in between three and ten thousand words. Experts still recommend that your posts come in somewhere near the two thousand word mark.

Image is Everything

Crafting the perfect viral share often starts with a killer image. Rising tennis star Andre Agassi teamed up with Canon cameras to successfully market the “Image is Everything” campaign back in the nineties. While you can optimize your content marketing strategy in a number of ways, using images, photos, and videos helps create the perfect viral share, with your article shared by twice as many viewers as with mere text alone.

Extra, Extra, Read All About It!

This old quote associated with newspaper sales was also a song recorded way back in 1975 by Ralph Carter. The authoritative sales pitch, “Extra, extra, read all about it” captured our attention, enticing us to buy the latest paper so we could check out the most up-to-date news. Building on this, we add two more characteristics of the perfect viral share —  a catchy headline and an authoritative tone. Don’t be afraid to state your expert status on your topic with pride. People will see you as more trustworthy and genuine, while increasing your sharing numbers.

Last, But Not Least

Some will attribute this popular phrase to the theater or more specifically to Shakespeare when he wrote a short line in King Lear, “Although the last, not least.” Just as we highlighted quotes and phrases in this article, we can use them in crafting the perfect viral share. By utilizing quotations and sharing anecdotes from their journeys, we will gain further interest and more shares from our readers.

But It Ain’t Over, Till It’s Over

This pithy quote is associated with legendary baseball hall of famer, Yogi Berra who would often use this phrase when speaking to reporters. Often it is difficult to gauge on social media what is popular and what is not, what trends are just beginning and which are basically over. Using True Social Media Metrics helps us analyze the most popular posts and give us a better picture of the more powerful social media content. Using these insights, we can more easily craft the perfect viral share.

After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. Here’s hoping that your material is seen by a thousand people and shared with a million more.

About the author:

MeganMegan M. Ritter is a business writer with a background in marketing and telecommunications. In addition to contributing her
research to infographics, she also enjoys sharing her knowledge of business globalization, virtual technology and mobile communications through her writing. Follow her on Twitter.



creating viral content

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17 Tricks for Driving Traffic With Content Marketing

content marketingEarlier, I wrote a post about the myth of viral marketing — the notion that you can plan for a piece of content to get shared so much it spreads like a virus through social networks. Sure, viral happens, you just can’t predict it, only plan to make your content as accessible as possible in hopes the “right” people will see your content and act on it. In other words, do good content marketing every day to build the network, authority, and reach that creates the OPPORTUNITY for viral marketing.

The frustration of content marketing

If you’re a content marketer, you know what I mean. You write this brilliant piece of content: a press release, blog post, newsletter, etc. You’re sure it’ll go viral because the content is so tight, so valuable, so well-written, you just can’t image that readers won’t rush to share it.

Then you wait.

And you wait.

And you wait.

A few RT and likes come in, but nowhere near the avalanche of shares you expected. No accolades, no awards.

Discouraged, you decide content marketing just doesn’t work and stop for a while or don’t put much effort into the content you create. Nothing like cutting off your nose to spite your face!

Then, unexpectedly, a piece of content goes viral. You try to replicate it, but don’t achieve the same success.

It’s frustrating, but that’s the reality of content marketing — some times things work, and sometimes they don’t.

Content marketing is like golf

For those golfers out there, you know exactly what I mean. Even Tiger Woods has days when all his shots go in the rough. But, it’s the hole in ones that keep you coming back day after day.

That’s the way it is with content marketing. Most posts kinda fizzle, but a few go through the stratosphere.

That’s what happened to me earlier this week. I wrote a post on the challenges of real-time social media analytics and hit a home run. It was picked up by Yahoo Small Business Advisor and Tweeted out by Mari Smith, the Facebook guru, among other influential shares.

power of content marketingThe result: a 25% increase in traffic to my site.

Over time, such shares not only reach vast numbers of prospective website visitors and swell your reputation, they impact your pagerank and help your content show up higher in a Google search.

Content marketing best practices

While you can never guarantee your content will go viral, there are things you can do to help things along. Take a look at this infographic from Crackerjack Scribe to see some suggestions. Most of this stuff is pretty standard, but you’d be surprised how many content marketing strategies don’t include all these elements. Of course, they probably need to eat their own dog food by cleaning up this image so the bubbles stay within the image.

Also, take a look at the image from SocialEars above. Analytics should be an integral aspect of your content marketing strategy. By that I mean developing a consistent program for monitoring not only the performance of your content, but industry trends, influencers, and other elements necessary for optimizing your content for your target audience.

Need Help?

Whether you need a complete content marketing strategy or a complete metrics-driven social media strategy, we can fill your digital marketing funnel. We can help you do your own social media marketing better or do it for you with our community managers, strategists, and account executives. You can request a FREE introductory meeting or sign up for my email newsletter to learn more about social media marketing.

17 Key Tactics to get your content seen and generate leads
Courtesy of: Crackerjack Scribe

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Viral Marketing Is A Myth

the myth of viral marketing
Copyright: fotokostic / 123RF Stock Photo

Viral marketing is a myth.

There. I said it.

And, it’s true.

Next to the definition of myth in the dictionary, you’re likely to find the viral marketing myth. The viral marketing myth, believed by most digital marketers is so pervasive, I’ve even seen marketing materials touting the firm’s viral marketing prowess. Well, let me say emphatically, viral marketing is a myth!

Now, that doesn’t mean that some content doesn’t go viral — it does. For instance, I published a post on a client’s blog, shared it on his Facebook wall, and got 1000% increase in website views when the post when viral.

Dissecting the success of this post, I found it contained both a provocative title and a captivating image. The post struck a chord that MADE readers want to know more.


Rather than perpetuating the viral marketing myth, let’s talk about virality — that’s the advice of successful journalist, Benny Johnson of Buzzfeed.

In his presentation, Benny said you can never predict which content will go viral (hence why viral marketing is a myth). You can’t form a marketing plan around something so idiosyncratic.

Virality, to a large extent, is beyond your control because it depends a lot on serendipity. You might publish 100 pieces of really great content only to have some mediocre piece go viral. Uncontrollable factors contribute to virality, such as:

  • It’s a slow news day. I often see some virality around the holidays, when fewer brands publish content.
  • Your post appeals to someone very influential. For instance, a post caught the attention of Mari Smith for some bizarre reason and she retweeted the content. Views of that piece of content when through the roof.
  • Your post gets featured on an important site or covered in the media. Whenever my post gets featured on the front page at Business 2 Community, website visits spikes.

Certainly, creating great content increases the chances of your content going viral, but it’s no guarantee.

Viral marketing strategies

If viral marketing is a myth, how do you develop viral marketing strategies?

You adopt tactics that increase the virality of your content, which increases the likelihood some of it goes viral.

Here are some things you should do as part of your viral marketing strategy (loosely based on Benny’s presentation):

Don’t forget your audience

Always create content with your audience in mind. Who are they? What do they need? What niche do you fill in their lives?

And, never forget the audience wants information, but they also want entertainment. Making your content more fun helps get your information across — and helps it go viral.

To demonstrate this, Benny uses humor in his political reporting. For instance, in exchange for following him on Twitter, he offered congressional staffers images of their bosses as pets. He recently won an award for his “Running of the Interns” piece highlighting Supreme Court decisions.

Humor works in some setting, but be careful. Your content needs to fit your goals. For Benny, his goal as a journalist is to reach his audience and increase his reputation as a political reporter. If you’re managing a brand, humor may not fit your organizational goals.

For instance, Mari Smith developed a very folksy style in the content shared with her audience. People resonate with her folksy, homespun approachability and interact with her. This works well with her audience of small businesses. Enterprise-level firms might feel this approach too trivial; a folksy approach doesn’t give them warm fuzzies about your sophistication and expertise.

And, Benny does a great job of breaking down politics; making it entertaining, but I see him more as a guest on The Daily Show than Face the Nation. Which I’m sure he thinks is just fine.

Which brings up another important aspect of creating virality:

Speak their language

Ignore what you learned in English class — at least to a point. Using colloquial language works just fine, as long as your audience understands and appreciates it. Also, in digital communications, using short paragraphs and lots of bullet points makes your content easily digestible by your audience, even though it violates strict English grammar rules.

Jargon can also help. If your audience knows the jargon, it establishes you as a professional, a colleague. Jargon is also a shorthand for very complete concepts, so it saves a lot of time and ensures effective communication, that’s why jargon exists.

Your audience wants interaction

Digital communication is a 2-way street. Build conversations with your audience and invite them to speak up. Asking questions works especially well in building interaction. Calling out audience members is also an effective tool for building engagement.

Be authentic

While you may not agree with Mari’s homespun approach, you should develop an approach that’s YOU. For instance, when I create content, I’m just writing down the conversations going on in my head — BTW, you talk back to me in my head, which is really weird.

I’m a real person with my own voice. And, that’s what you need. Not some professional team. I share my successes and foibles and invite you to connect with me personally on Facebook, LinkedIN, Google+, and Twitter, where you’ll see pictures of my grandkids and political humor along with my insights about digital marketing.

Need Help?

Whether you need a complete content marketing strategy or some consulting to help you use LinkedIn for lead generation, we can fill your digital marketing funnel or  developing a content marketing strategy that matches your needs. We can help you do your own social media marketing better or do it for you with our community managers, strategists, and account executives. You can request a FREE introductory meeting or sign up for my email newsletter to learn more about social media marketing.


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Viral Marketing: 7 Elements in the Anatomy of a Buzzzzzz

buzz marketing

Viral marketing involves spreading your message quickly through your target market.  Social media is considered a particularly fertile area because of the potential for viral marketing to amplify your message.  Also called buzz marketing, viral marketing gets its name because it spreads through a population much like a virus – from person to person.  Viral marketing looks like WOM (Word of Mouth) on steroids.

Just about everyone working in social media recognizes the importance of viral marketing, so let’s talk about HOW to create the BUZZ.

Anatomy of a Buzz

Viral marketing isn’t a strategy, although I’ve heard internet marketers talk like it is — OK, we’re going to create a viral marketing campaign.  Duh, what is a viral marketing campaign??? Can you create a viral campaign??  I think the answer is NO.   You CAN create a campaign using strategies that make it likely the message will go viral, but you can never accurately predict what will ultimately go viral.  And it’s not easy to get messages to go viral.  Here’s a link to some of the best in viral marketing.

In creating a campaign you hope will go viral, you need 7 elements:

  • A message folks are dying to share – unlike paid advertising, WOM is spread voluntarily. So, you have to motivate folks to share your message. Inherently, people spread your message because THEY get something out of it.  They don’t care about YOU.  People share your content because they want to feel important, be part of the inner circle, become influential, to increase their stature with their friends, they get free access or products, to build a relationship with you … So, the first part of creating a message you hope will go viral is to provide for these elements.

Content should be interesting, valuable, humorous, attractive, or have some other element that makes it sharable.

Encourage sharing by thanking folks who share content, responding to or mentioning them, add them to your circle (in Google+), friend them, follow them.

  • A network – face it, viral marketing is a numbers game.  You can have a few folks in your network and they can each share your message A LOT, or you can have lots of folks in your network who each share with a few.  Either way, your message can go viral.  Since you have little control over how broadly folks share your message, the safest route is to have lots of folks in your network.  That way, when they share, you’re guaranteed to have wide distribution of your message.
  • Influencers – it’s great to have influencers as part of your network because, by definition, they have large networks that are likely to spread messages they transmit.  So, you should try to cultivate a few influencers to your network.  You can do this by engaging them or rewarding them in some way — such as providing free product or early access to the product.  Google+ used this very effectively by inviting influencers in and allowing them to invite their networks.
  • Authority - the more authority you have, the more likely you are to have your message spread.  Folks don’t like to spread rumors (gossip, yes, but rumors, no), untrue claims, content that lacks value, etc.  Authority suggests both value and veracity to your content.  A corollary is that authority commonly brings larger audiences into your network.
  • Effective targeting - it really doesn’t help for your message to reach a lot of people who will never buy your product or service and likely, their friends won’t either.  Companies who “pay” for their network (of Fans or Followers) often end up with folks outside their target market.  Viral marketing, in this context, is a waste.
  • Metrics – are critical for success in viral marketing because these measures allow you to track success.  By understanding which messages go viral and which don’t you can hone your technique so messages are more likely to go viral. For instance, timing is often critical in getting social media messages to go viral because messages are quickly replaced by new messages.  Poor timing and few people will see your message and have the opportunity to share it.
  • Luck – even with the best strategy and implementation, viral marketing sometimes involves a little luck.

So, share your experiences.  Have you attempted to use viral marketing? What was the outcome? What did you learn from this effort?

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Most Successful Online Marketing Strategy: SEO, Social Media Optimization (SMO), Affiliate, or Paid Search?

A great question was posted on Quora and the answers are great.  I thought I’d share them with you.  Happy Holidays.

Answer from Steve Wiideman:

Steve Wiideman, Creative Search Strategist

I think the best answer to this question is “yes” or “all of the above”. Depending on your industry and niche, you mind find better results in the least expected places.

Having worked for a few Fortune 100’s, I can tell you that 23 to 25 percent of all traffic (for entertainment and travel industry websites) came from natural and paid search (about 18 percent from natural). PPC can produce the best ROI fastest if you have a rockstar like Evan Magers of iSearchMedia building your accounts, but SEO will have the best long term ROI after you’ve invested $130k on tech, creative/content and placement costs. If you can survive that long, the three will produce a damn good revenue stream for the next several years. Particularly if you have UX Expert, such as Aaron Irizarry of help you with usability (see that cool little button at Enough said on conversion).

Personally, I’ve developed a fancy little tactic utilization table that works well for me and for many of my peers and clients. The table allows me to give myself an ROI score on each channel (1-10) and calculate overall marketing tactic utilization. I do ping peers to give me a score frequently as well.

In terms of SMO, if you’re not doing video with Mark Roberton of ReelSEO in conjunction with a rockstar media team such as the geniuses that spawned Old Spice Guy, I say don’t bother. Blogging isn’t SMO, it’s blogging. SMO = viral and engagement (ref:

Good luck with the affiliate marketing piece. The guys who do it well are untouchable. They sit around a table, put all their cards (email lists) into a pool, send out a promotion, make hundreds of thousands of dollars, then brag about it at events they charge you $30k to attend for the rest of year. Do the math. If a potential affiliate manager applies for a job with you, you should question why on Earth are they not able to monetize their own affiliate campaigns? It’s like the rich of America. There’s 2% who have it, the rest of us just wish we did. Join us hopefuls or talk with guru keynote speakers at ASW11. I’ll be there.

Media buying. Wow, there’s a tough gig. If you can afford it and have the right firm with the right contacts who can put your media in the right channels to light a fire with your campaign, you’ve found gold and you should not (ever) let it go. Recently, I’ve worked with a firm called They deal more with PR, but blew me away with a recent campaign that included connecting with media contacts. It was like watching a whisper erupt into a storm. Awesomeness.

My best recommendation would be to fork out a few hundred bucks and pick up the latest MarketingSherpa report. They usually include case study data from hundreds of marketers, including the table you’re looking for with reach, cost, and ROI.…

For me, it’s PPC, SEO, DR, and a little Quora SMO now and then. In that order.

Steve, asked me to comment on his post, so here is my answer:

Steve, thats a great answer.  You invited me to join you in answering this question, but you’re really the expert on these tactics and what works.  So, I defer to your greater knowledge.

I would, however, like to make 1 additional observation.  Which tactic or set of tactics you choose should be a function of your target market and your marketing objectives.  I’ve worked with a number of clients over the years, both large and small, and these are the biggest problems I see.  They hear of a new marketing tactic or they read about the success another company experienced and they want to duplicate the tactic used.  But, they forget that not all target markets respond the same way.

Let me give you an example.  I’m working with a client who has a great deal of experience in the B2C realm.  He’s now moving into a B2B realm and doesn’t understand that many of the same tactics that worked in B2C just look unprofessional in the B2B context.  Relationships are built differently in a B2B context, too. So your social media needs to change to match the expectations of this audience.  Over sharing and frequent updates are likely to be viewed as annoying to a B2B client. This audience is busy and you need to give them value for the time they invest in getting to know you.

Thanks for inviting me to answer.  Although I don’t have your expertise, I hope this answer is helpful.

Finally, we had a comment from Andy Beard:

Anything with a viral component that ideally can be tracked, measured and turned into revenue producing actions.

It doesn’t matter how you initially promote it, you want it to have a viral coefficient that in some way supplements your other activity giving far greater bang for you buck.
Even if you have a viral coefficient that sucks, say 0.6, you still end up with double bang for your buck compared to competitors.

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