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Going Viral: 8 Steps to Creating an Internet Sensation

Oscars selfieWhen Ellen De Generes took THAT selfie at The Oscars recently, within hours it was retweeted over 2 million times, going viral around the world.

Samsung may have paid a reported £12m for its advertising “integration” during the broadcast, but even they were as astonished as everyone else when the star-studded snap became the most shared message of all time.

We all want more traffic, more views, more subscribers, more followers and more interaction from people, and if you can get something to go viral on the web, the exposure you will receive in a small amount of time without much effort can be priceless.

So just how easy is it to make something go “viral” and what exactly do you need to do in order to gain maximum exposure for the content you are keen to share?

1. Remember, You Can’t MAKE Something go Viral

Make sure from the outset that you fully understand that it is pretty much impossible to make something go viral. You can hope for it, you can position your content to be at its best and most interesting with the underlying wish that will it catch on, but you cannot make it go viral.

You should instead concentrate fully on making it compelling, interesting, funny, moving, and definitely something able to resonate with a lot of readers or viewers – that’s what will cause it to be shared.

Ultimately it will be your audience who makes the final decision as to whether your content is interesting enough to share.

2. Know What People Like

In order for something to go viral, it needs to touch people in some way. Something that’s funny, something that’s interesting, something that’s useful (just like this blog you are reading now!).

Quirky, unusual and out of the ordinary topics will always grab people’s attention and lead them to share with other people. But this doesn’t just have to be pictures of cute babies or dancing pets. Even a relatively long article, if the content is engaging and informative, will capture the imagination – especially if it carries a clear message that the reader is keen to learn more about.

3. Make it Search Friendly

search-enginesContent that’s difficult to access won’t go viral purely due to the fact that nobody can find it. Keep in mind that people are typing in keywords and phrases when they are searching for something – so you want your content to come up in those results. Make sure you load your headline and body text with key phrases and words that make it as “search friendly” as possible.

If you have your own domain then make sure it’s easy-to-remember, or choose a name that even someone with the memory of a goldfish could guess.

When using another site to host your content, be sure to use one that has a good following, such as Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, or Facebook, etc. And be sure that your content includes the very thing people would be looking for, such as a turn of phrase, a precise question, specific keywords, etc.

The use of popular logos for sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Reader, etc can encourage people to share without them even realising it. Known as “social bling” they increase the ease with which people can pass around your content, so try and make the most of them.

4. Don’t be Afraid of Self Publicity

You might not be able to ensure something goes viral, but you can certainly improve your chances.

Promoting your post through trusted channels is an important way to get your content seen, noticed, and picked up on. So, make it as easy as possible for people to notice that your content, picture or idea is out there.

5. Use a Call to Action


Simply posting something then sitting back hoping for the best isn’t usually enough; sometimes you need to give people a gentle shove.

Don’t be afraid to ask people to share and it’s always worth adding a few strategically placed instructions in any copy. “Check out my link,” “Have you seen this?” “Why not follow this?” will guide people to where you want them to go.

6. Know When to Post

Timing is everything and you need to know just when, and when not to post something if you want to gain maximum exposure.

As well as gauging what people are interested in and talking about, the time which you post your content is vital too. You want people to see it when they are going to work, on their lunch break, or during the home-time commute. Not in the middle of the night at a weekend.

Try posting at what you know is the time most people are more likely to be online; as the more people who are actively reading, viewing, or interacting with your content, the greater your chances of the content getting sent around amid the buzz of novelty and mutually sustaining sharing.

7. Make Your Post Original

When it comes to getting people to see your content you need to be aware that competition for readership is fierce. That’s why it’s vital that you make your post or content as different as it can possibly be.

Humorous posts will usually lead to a greater number of shares and people love controversy to in order to instigate debate among friends and followers.

Competitions are also a great way of spreading the word. If you can engage with people by giving away a prize then it increases the likelihood of people liking your Facebook page or following you on Twitter. It might even lead them to tweet about the contest or post it on their Facebook profile to pull even more people in.

8. Connect with People

Make sure it’s easy for people to make contact with you. Either through comment boxes, IM, a chat forum, an email address, or any other way you are comfortable using.

At the end of the day it is allowing  conversation to take place that helps your piece of web content get shared and increases its chances of ultimately turning viral.