4 Secret Elements Behind Viral Content

Viral Content Marketing
Alyssa Mattero
December 18, 2013


What Content Triggers Cause Your Audience to Share?


By now, everyone knows it’s important to create original, quality content.

But what triggers a person to share content with their friends, family or social network?

There several different elements that can impact a person’s choice to share content. For example, according to Imrcorp.com, Volvo’s the “Epic Split” truck video garnered over 6 million views on YouTube using exciting visual content and a recognizable spokesman as content triggers for virality.


Here are the top content characteristics that trigger virality.


 1.    Recognizable spokesman or celebrity

Companies pay big bucks to have stars like David Beckham or James Earl Jones star in their ads and they expect big results. We are in the advertising age of ‘go big or go home’ and companies like Sprint and H&M got it right this year.

H&M’s, ‘Short film by Guy Ritchie starring David Beckham’ received 928,272 shares

Sprint’s ‘Everything’s Important- Totes McGotes Commercial’ received over 550,000 views on YouTube in under 2 months.

 2.    Dynamic visuals

It’s a basic principle of advertising that people like to see pleasing visuals. Dynamic visuals take it to the next level. These are visuals that are so impressive that people can’t help but share them with their friends like Rockstar Grand Theft Auto V Official Gameplay Video which received 841,528 shares over social media and blogs.


 3.    Emotion: funny, sad, controversial or inspirational

Emotion is perhaps, the greatest tool we have as marketers. Content that evokes emotion is powerful. Whether an ad makes you laugh or a commercial makes you cry, if the emotion is strong enough, you are going to share that content. Emotion elevates an advertisement into an experience and if done correctly, the sharing value has endless potential.

Apple does a great job creating emotional content like their latest touching Holiday promotion, “Misunderstood,”  which already has over 1.3 million views on YouTube.

Geico’s ‘Hump Day’ TV spot earned 4.03 million shares by making people laugh.

According to UnrulyMedia, the adjectives that people use to describe content can influence virality. Below are the top ten types of content that spark viral sharing.

    1. Hot


2. Cute


3. Funny


4. Shocking


5. Moving


6. Random


7. Unbelievable


8. Zeitgeisty


9. Controversial


10. Illuminating


4.    Social Currency

First of all, what is social currency? Personally, I like TechCrunch’s definition: “Social currency essentially refers to the idea that every person has an online identity formed through participation in social networks, websites, digital communities, and online transactions. Our everyday activities — web searches, status updates, ‘likes’, tweets, and comments — they all leave a trail of data behind which we tend to see as ephemeral or throw away.”

Vivaldi Partners, who recently released a study on social currency, define it as the extent to which people share the brand or information about a brand as part of their everyday social lives at work or at home.

Social currency influences sharing because people want to share content that impacts their online identity in a positive way.  Brands need to provide content that will contribute to a positive social currency for both the brand and the customer.


 5.    Value

People share content that he or she finds relevant and valuable. When inboxes are full of spam and advertisements are everywhere we turn, content needs to be specific to the consumer’s needs, interests, or concerns. When content offers value successfully, people share it.

Phoneblok’s  ‘Phonebloks’ video earned over 1.08 million shares by demonstrating relevance and value to a large audience of people.


The goal of your content shouldn’t be virality. The goal of your content should be to produce something worth remembering. Strive to create something that will speak to your target audience. Intrigue customers to take the next step and visit your site or make a purchase. It’s amazing when content goes viral. It’s an art that is still in its infancy but at its root is just about creating something that connects your brand to the people it can help.

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