The Secret Behind Viral Content

This video of goats yelling like humans has received 36 million YouTube views:

When nonprofits ask me how to create “viral content”, I show them videos like this one which probably makes them wonder why they hired me. 🙂

[I know, you want to watch the yelling goats again.

Go ahead.  I’ll wait.]

The truth is, I have no idea what makes anything go viral. The common ingredients of viral content are well documented, but there seems to be something magically delicious and fantastic that’s hard to pinpoint. And that gets me excited!

The science behind viral content

Scientific research on what makes content go viral has found:

The viral content checklist

There’s also this amazingly useful “viral checklist” from Carson Ward:

  • Did you sufficiently cover the topic? Is it long enough? (24)
  • Does the content inspire a high-energy emotion like awe (16), anger(18), or anxiety (18)?
  • Did your tone convey emotion? (12)
  • Is it practically useful? (16)
  • Is it interesting? (14)
  • Is it surprising? (8)
  • Does the author have fame/credibility? (8)
  • If it’s supposed to be funny, is it actually funny? Are you sure your friends aren’t just being nice? (?)

(The number next to each question shows a maximum score to help prioritize the most important factors)

The fact that the answers to these questions are largely subjective complicates matters that much more!

You see, human beings are infinitely complex and dynamic. The infinite part is the beautiful problem.

So even the best attempt at creating viral content might still end up going off like a stale fart.

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John Haydon