• Optimistic Thom

A 4-Step Formula for Designing Viral Content

Updated: May 15

Every day, hundreds of social media posts see an unprecedented amount of interactions while being shared across the world. Every time we post something, going viral is always in the back of our minds, believing this might be the post that puts us on the digital map. As we all know, however, it doesn’t just happen. For every post that gets thrown into the black hole of social media, very few ever gain enough traction to reach a widespread audience.

Cards on the table, there is an incredible amount of luck that goes into a viral post. As marketers, we need to accept this when dealing with the chaos of social media. What I’m saying is, I’m not boasting a 100% viral success rate with this strategy.

This article will, however, increase your odds of gaining traction with a massive audience. Viral posts all share some remarkable similarities, and once you know them, it all comes down to a game of persistence.


Step 1. Utilize Google Trends

When it comes to producing content, there is no approach more surefire to see popularity than to follow what people are searching at the time. However, these topics frequently change, so instead of guessing based on current events, do your research through Google Trends.

On a basic level, Google Trends will tell you what is currently being searched at a high volume. Doing this research is your first and most crucial ingredient in constructing viral content. A screencap from Google Trends during Black Friday, 2019Once you have a direction for your content, remember to move quickly. You need to produce content that people are currently searching for, which also means time is critical. So type fast because by next week you might be yesterday’s news, and your content will inevitably flop.


Step 2. Learn Viral Content Structure

While there are certainly outliers, you’ll find the majority of viral content shares two common aspects: quick to the point and relatable.

When trying to reach a massive audience, you have to create content that, umbrella-style, covers as many people as possible to engage. The longer and more complex your content is, the more people will lose interest. Many speculate people have roughly an eight-second attention span online, so yeah, your ten-minute blog post probably isn’t going to blow up. Keep initial posts and copy short and find ways to transition into your more substantial content from there. Once something goes viral, you’ll find you have a lot of avenues to expand with more content and promotion.

When it comes to being relatable, on the other hand, the idea is to be more complicated. Tricky, I know, balancing the two, but if it were easy, everyone would do it. Many people will tell you to just be funny, and they are technically not wrong, but ideally, you want to be more than comical.

You need to be relatable, and to do that, you have to touch on multiple sides of emotion, such as happiness, excitement, and anger. To help you visualize different categories of emotion, I’ve found a post from r/coolguides by user u/canintrovertsbecool.

Try to include a range of different categorized emotions in your post to really resonate with a broad audience.



Step 3. Encourage Engagement

At the end of the day, no social media post will get off the ground if people don’t initially share and interact with it. You could post the greatest, topical, relatable piece of content in the world, but if no one saw it, it would go nowhere.

To put it in other words, when no one hears these posts fall, they certainly do not make a sound.

Your connections will get posts off the ground, but it’s better to create an intentional interaction. Many posts that go viral will ask questions or create some sort of deliberate message to create intercommunication with people who see it. This creates a subtle ask for your audience to get your post rolling with interactions.

You can also be more direct and simply ask people with more extensive followings to share your content. This really isn’t a huge favor, especially if you know them, and they like your stuff, but be careful not to be annoying about it.

If they say no, don’t press and don’t ask every week without offering some sort of compensation. These influencers are giving you help; don’t take it for granted.


Step 4. Create Something New

Lastly, when it comes to viral content, you want to add to conversations, not replicate them. When you know what your content will be about, and you’ve checked all of the previously mentioned boxes, you want to do some quick research to see what is already out there.

Find popular articles and what sites rank the highest with keyword searches to help narrow down your topic. Again, you aren’t looking to copy anything out there but, instead, expand on their ideas.

If you copy the content, you’ll just be rolling the dice with the odds heavily stacked against you. Be unique, add your own voice to what you want to share, and be persistent in this strategy.

As long as you’re active in constructing your content with an informed intention of being viral, your phone will soon be blowing up with engagement.

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©2020 by Optimistic Thom