Our quick guide to viral content

Our quick guide to viral content

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You won’t believe how much you’ll learn from this article! Okay, I promise to stop speaking in ‘viral’ now, but I thought it would be handy to write a bit about it, to give you all an understanding on how viral content is created.

Firstly, What Exactly Is Viral Content?

Quite simply, a piece of viral content is any media that becomes an Internet sensation. This usually happens with people sharing the content with their social followers, who in turn do the same. This leads to huge amounts of worldwide viewing figures in a short space of time. We’ve all seen it, right? Charlie bit my finger, baby monkey riding a pig, double rainbow man etc. More often than not, viral content is of no real help or purpose, as the average social media user is quicker to share a funny video clip, rather than a serious message.

Whilst Viral Content existed in the pre-Internet era (chain letters, bootlegged tapes, zines, etc…) we will be concentrating on online viral content.

So What’s Needed For Content To Go Viral?

Quite simply, good content, but more specifically, unexpected content. What makes a good advert or a good plot twist in a film? Something that takes you by surprise; viral content often works in the same way. There’s a reason why you get all of those click bait headlines (You won’t believe what this guy did… etc), because this content catches us by surprise and we share it.

Then, you need tastemakers. Tastemakers are those who bring the original content to the public’s attention. Normally, a tastemaker might be someone in the public eye, as they have a wider reach and more influence on their followers. For example, if I tweet a YouTube clip to my relatively small amount of followers, a small handful may have a look. If Ricky Gervais tweets the same link, it will be viewed thousands of times, favourite and retweeted 10s of thousands of times and will probably go viral. Ricky Gervais retweeted a link to my own personal site once. In a day, it got over 5000 hits, worldwide.

Lastly, you need Community Participation. This is the part that makes content spread all over the Internet. Viewers will comment, share and like content; often, parodies, edits and remixes will be made. Memes are a perfect example of this and the bank of ‘usable’ memes is growing every day. Just look at Boris Johnson stuck on a zip wire and how that got photoshopped, shared and eventually turned into a popular meme.

Charlie Bit My Finger!

Okay, okay. Before you all jump on my back, I am well aware that everyone knows about Charlie bit my finger; but to be honest, I’ve never seen the appeal myself. Yes, it’s a cute family moment but I can’t understand the popularity of this clip. It is just an unplanned family moment featuring two brothers, the younger of which bites his sibling’s finger. It has, at the time of writing, been viewed 826,243,870 times and has netted the family hundreds of thousands of pounds in revenue.

The reason I mention it, is that this sums up viral content. The family did not mean or expect this little clip to be viewed that many times, it just happens. Yes, you can force viral content (more on that in a bit), but largely it’s down to luck. Seeing the success of videos like this is inspirational, no wonder 300 hours of footage are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Everyone wants YouTube fame.

Luck, or Hard Work?

They say overnight success takes 10 years hard work. Most musicians, actors, authors, CEOs, or whoever you might consider ‘successful’ will tell you that even if it looks like they appeared overnight, they’ve been working hard for years. Whilst it’s true that you can upload a video and it can go viral, that’s getting harder and harder to do. I’ve uploaded clips of my dog to YouTube doing funny things, one sure video was even featured on ‘Animal Planet’ on American TV, which gets an audience of 8 – 12 million. That original clip has been viewed…… 357 times….. in 3 years.


5 years ago, ‘Yosemite Bear’ uploaded his ‘double rainbow’ video, which has since been viewed nearly 42 million times and he has nearly 43,000 subscribers to his channel. His latest videos must get thousands of views, right? No… around about 150 each in fact.

A lot of money is to be made from viral content, which is why most of the viral content you see nowadays is from ‘professional’ YouTubers who work hard to create unexpected viral content that they know (or at least hope!) will be shared. It doesn’t stop there though. They work tirelessly to post the video to various channels, networks and viral sites to make sure the content gets seen by the tastemakers so that the community will fulfil the content’s purpose. The chances of going viral are slim, but still very possible.

A Final Word

Whether or not your content goes viral, it is still vitally important to create good content to promote your business. A few years ago, SellerDeck made our own ‘viral’, which sadly didn’t have the traction we may have hoped, but it’s still a good video to have out there and we’re very pleased with it.

The focus for the average SME shouldn’t be on millions of people worldwide seeing your content, it should be on your current customers and others like them. Make content that highlights your products and services, and just be sure not to go viral for the wrong reasons.

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