What makes a site go viral?

Posted by Pete Juratovic on

It’s no secret that some websites do better than others. Some even go viral while others seemingly just sit there going nowhere. But the majority of sites do start off growing steam slowly before potentially going viral. And since not everything posted on the web can go viral, it is a good idea to know a few things about what makes a site go viral.

The first thing you need to know, of course, is that in order for a particular site or its content to go viral, it must be worthy of sharing with others. The next thing you need to know is how to get your content shared with others, and the obvious answer to that is to utilize social networks. Twitter and Facebook are two of the easiest social mediums to share website content, particularly if a site is dedicated to a specific niche. StumbleUpon is also an excellent website for sharing web pages. Do not be afraid to toot your own horn on these sites. Get the sharing started by posting your own content for others to see. Things that go viral tend to fall into one or more of the following categories: articles or blog posts, videos or podcasts, inforgraphics, and interactive content such as games or widgets.

Now that it is clear what kind of things go viral and how to get it started, it is time to consider what sort of things are worthy of being shared. Typical things that go viral are cutesy items like kids or animals. Nearly everyone likes to see things that make you go “awww”. Likewise, people enjoying seeing or reading things that make them smile and/or laugh. Laughter is often the cure for a bad mood or even a bad day. Who doesn’t want to share things that make them smile or chuckle?

Other sharable content includes the things that shock people because they deem it unbelievable, mesmerizing, or just plain strange. Anything that draws a strong emotional reaction from people will also connect on a sharing level. It can be any kind of emotion from excitement to anger to sadness. It can even illicit outrage or cause a controversy. Emotion is a powerful tool because it most definitely promotes viral sharing.

Lastly, content that is news worthy will likely flourish. Meaning, if you post or blog about something that the main stream media is already talking about then your web page will likely be found and shared. Conversely, if your content is worthy enough to be shared by mainstream media then it will go viral. That is almost guaranteed.

Therefore, the bottom line is that your website content must grab attention because if it is an attention getter then it has a better chance of going viral. Remember, things likely to grab attention illicit some kind of reaction other than boredom or a neutral feeling. Viral contend does things like support the opinions of others, provoke controversy, cause laughter, or makes people stop and think.