Virality on the Internet is a good thing; unlike virality in real life which is usually frowned upon and not popular with the ladies. Anyone who posts, shares, or creates content online is always hoping for the elusive Viral Fairy to sprinkle her magic 1’s and 0’s on their efforts and send it flying off in thousands of directions at once. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.
Most of my experience with posts going viral has been on Google+, because honestly, that’s where I spend most of my time. Google+ has an auto-generated stream called “What’s Hot” that curates the posts that are receiving the most +1s and Shares at any given time. Having a post “make it into” What’s Hot is kind of like unlocking an achievement and should be the end goal of any post you really want a ton of people to pay attention to.
To that end, I’ve listed my top 4 posts that went viral in Google’s What’s Hot and what I think are the secrets to their success.
4. The Over-The-Top Joke
If there’s one thing the entire Internet loves, it’s ridiculous jokes. The more outlandish they are, the better they spread. And when you add an element of “Hey, I could actually do that!”, those posts tend to strike a chord with a lot of people. If you post an easy way to be funny that requires almost ZERO effort, people will usually love it, and even better, share it.
The interesting thing about this post catching on is that in the comments section, people began having intellectual and theological debates about anger! They posted comments about not holding onto anger, getting help for anger issues and even what a pain in the ass it is to hate people. See? Comedy brings people together.
3. The Relatable Post
The Relatable Post is different from the “Over the Top” Joke in that it doesn’t necessarily have to be funny. It just has to be something that people rarely mention but that almost everyone can relate to.
Here’s an example of a Relatable Post that’s also funny:
This was actually my very first Google+ post to get into What’s Hot, back in February of 2012. It took off really quickly because, come on, who hasn’t been disappointed in the office (or home) restroom because you had to stop playing Angry Birds or Triple Town? (Scumbag bears!) The concept is funny (the ever-popular poop joke) and tons of people can relate to it. “Ohmigod, that is SO me!”
2. The “WOA!” Factor
+1s: 2199 – Shares: 995 – Comments: 309
There seems to be an inherent need in us to share things that evoke intense reactions. Think about the phenomenon of tasting something terrible and literally saying “Ugh! This is AWFUL! Try it!” to your friend. Weird, right? (Also, relatable! Callback Achievement Unlocked.)
People love to be blown away by strange, unusual things, especially in video form. (Don’t even get me started on the Stairwell Illusion!) And if you can really “WOW!” people, they’re much more likely to share the post because they want to “WOW!” their friends as well.
The video in this post also incorporates the “Hey, I could actually do that!” element, though not nearly as much of the “ZERO effort” element. Despite that, it was pretty dang popular and aggravated my OCD associated with the constantly scrolling notifications box for quite a while. ::twitch::
So what was my most viral Google+ post ever?
1. The Easily Repeatable “WOA!” Factor
The Hexaflexagons, while very “WOA!”-inducing, were a bit intimidating to recreate for the normal, lazy online reader. It required getting paper and cutting it and then what if you don’t cut it right and just NEVERMIND. However, this multiplication method 1) actually works and 2) is easy to test for yourself. In fact, you probably have paper and a pen sitting within easy reach right now.
The fun part of this post was again in the comments section, where people started expanding on the basic theory and trying numbers with more than 2 digits. (Spoiler: It still works!) The comments quickly went into a frenzy of people trying it with different numbers, suggesting methods, looking up YouTube videos and basically throwing math around like confetti. It was really fun to watch so many people get enthusiastic and excited about school’s least favorite subject.
To sum up, in my experience, the majority of posts I’ve seen go viral have included at least some element that either 1) makes people laugh, 2) is a concept they can immediately relate to or 3) amazes them with something they’ve never seen before. And if you can create content that’s easy for people to duplicate themselves with little to no effort, you have a much better chance of seeing it spread.