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Is a funny, famous female the formula for viral content? Maybe not, but it sure helps.

  • by Gustavo Morais
  • January 18th, 2013

Facebook’s most recent “feel good viral story” “Two Girls and a Puppy” has got us thinking about the nature of viral content. If you’re not hip to the story: 2 little girls begged their Dad for a puppy until he jokingly agreed that if they could get 1 million ‘likes’ on Facebook, they could get a puppy. It didn’t take more than a few hours for puppy loving social media users everywhere to ‘like’ their page 1 Million times. Was it the power of puppies that pushed their page into viral history, or was it something else? While there is no formula for posting viral content, there are a few proven guidelines that seem to help. Our friends over at SEOMoz just published a blog post that details what type of content goes viral and why. In a nutshell:

Write long, in-depth posts. A detailed, in-depth post indicates thoroughness and thoughtfulness. It tells the reader that the author cares about the topic enough to spend ample time researching and writing about it. 2 University of Pennsylvania professors looked at the New York Times’ most emailed list to see if they could determine what caused people to share an article. They found that word count was more closely correlated with sharing than any other variable examined. This isn’t exactly relevant to our puppy post, but valuable nonetheless.

Inspire anger, awe, or anxiety. Content that inspires high-energy emotions is far more likely to be shared. If you are angry about a topic, write about it. If you are amazed by something, write about it. If you are anxious for something, write about it. If you are sad about something, don’t write about it. Content that inspires low-energy emotions like sadness is less likely to be shared, according to the SEOMoz post.

Prove you care. This is related to your writing style. If you write like a robot with no emotions, nobody will share it. Piggybacking off the “inspire anger, awe, or anxiety” point, make sure that your writing style shows how passionate you are. Readers will feed off your passion, but they can only feel it through the way your content is written.

Practically useful, surprising, and interesting. This comes as no surprise, but content that is surprising, interesting and practically useful receives more shares than boring stuff. This is a no brainer, but it’s interesting to see which of these inspires more sharing:

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