Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
Since the advent of platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and others like them, companies have been trying to find the secret behind some of the internet’s most viral content in order to reproduce it for themselves and garner some major attention. While at times the types of content that spark such engagement may seem totally random, deeper study indicates there may be similarities after all.
To shed some light on the “recipe” behind most viral content, a panel of Rolling Stone Culture Council members share 10 characteristic elements of this type of content and what businesses need to focus on if they want to “go viral” themselves.
It Strikes an Emotional Chord
Create content that strikes a chord with viewers — whether that’s happiness, sadness, laughter, anger, relatability, etc. As a consumer, when you ask yourself why content is viral, it is because it usually elicits one of the above emotions in us, which makes us want to share it with others so that they can also feel the same thing. – Vanessa Gabriel, Drop Delivery
It Is Consistent and Familiar
The secret to viral content is consistency and familiarity. There is not a person on the planet who has stepped onto a stage (whether a physical or virtual stage) for the very first time and become an overnight success. People like what is familiar and consistent. – Marla Matime, Voice Media Ventures
It Is Made With Passion
There are a lot of secret ingredients in the recipe of “going viral.” However, it’s undeniable that passion is most important when creating content. If you speak to the founder of any company, I guarantee that they’ll emit passion. I suggest creating a series on the founder’s reasons for starting their company, and have a video released every week or once a month. – Adam Rumanek, Aux Mode Inc.
It Taps into a Trend
Content is most likely to go viral when it taps into a trend that is already part of the zeitgeist. For example, the Hulu show Nine Perfect Strangers created a mainstream conversation around psychedelics and fueled the “shroom boom” we’re experiencing in the sector. As a result, psychedelic content is more prolific and in demand than ever. – Lisa Weser, Trailblaze
It Grows Organically
There might be an initial PR push, but truly viral content will grow organically — beyond the best marketing efforts — if it’s resonating with existing fans or those who discover it through their own extended network. Future viral responses and engagement will last much longer if content is consistent and authentic to the relationship between the brand and fanbase. – Allie Gruensfelder, Trendsetter Media & Marketing
It Is Uplifting or Inspirational
Personal stories that inspire and uplift are some of the most predictably “viral-worthy” categories of content. If you have a touching story, share it. If you don’t have one, get to know your employees and see if there’s a story worth sharing. If not, make one. Volunteer in your community and “write” a touching story with your actions. Then, turn your story into a minute-long video. – Tyler Gallagher, Team 33
It Creates Excitement
The secret is creating visually exciting and engaging content that users will want to share. Most social media platform algorithms rank content on engagement — that is, the comments and shares that provide the “viral” reach that sometimes lasts for days. Know your customer well, know the best time to post and keep the high-energy content coming! – Lynn Rosenthal, Periscape
It Is Original and Authentic
The biggest secret to viral growth is originality and authenticity. The biggest viral moments are a storm of perfect circumstances and the right people sharing your content. Social media algorithms will work for you if the content is favorable, and the more interaction it gets, the better. Incentivize team members to interact with your social channels to maximize results. – Logan Forbes, Untitledexport MGMT
It Engages the Viewer Immediately
Quality viral content seems to be more than current hashtags and video edits. Engaging the viewer immediately and keeping them focused for the first two minutes is huge. Keep content relevant and fresh. Having consumers engage with the content seems to be an amazing way of pushing for viral status. Not to mention creating trackable content so you are able to see who and how many actually engage with your content. – Chris Martin, Hempful Farms
Its Messaging Is on Point
I believe that the secret to viral content is that it should be engaging and have brand messaging that’s on point. It should not be super promotional or too long, as the audience starts losing interest and will stop engaging with the content you are posting. Plus, the content needs to be relevant and keep changing so that the audience sees something new all the time. – Victoria Kennedy, Victorious PR