Well-written short articles that are related to specific industries can position a business as a thought leader and increase credibility among customers.

With the right kind of marketing, the creation of these business related articles may go viral enticing a bigger audience to your product or service than you ever expected.
5 ways to create viral content

Crafting contagious

The sub-head above is actually the title of an article written by Jonah Berger in July 2012. Berger is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and is considered one of the foremost experts in viral marketing.

He postulates that the key to creating contagious content is to craft a piece that tweaks at people’s emotions.

“Our results found that articles, ads, or information that evoke emotion in the reader are around 20 percent more likely to be highly shared. Take the success of Coca-Cola’s ‘Happiness Machine’ advertisement, or British singer Susan Boyle, who emerged from nowhere to become a viral sensation. What we see in these cases, and many more, is that feeling drives sharing.”

Berger’s research is worth a read. A link can be found within the Crafting Contagious article.

Before we leave Berger alone, his next point is just as important.

“Emotional arousal drives sharing. Activating emotions leads people to share while deactivating emotions reduces sharing. The same thing is true for negative emotions as well. Ever wonder why people are more likely to share an angry customer service experience than something that makes them sad? Anger is activating while sadness is deactivating.”

The content we create should hit some sort of emotional nerve. Now I don’t necessarily want to make people angry, nor should businesses that wish to have customers onside, not offside, but it is certainly an emotionally charged article that can create the most noise.

Creating high arousal emotions

We’re not talking the 50 Shades of Grey kind of emotional arousal. On second thought, perhaps we are. The movie, much like the book, went viral. It went viral for all the wrong reasons, but everyone was talking about it and box office was healthy. I have neither seen the movie nor read the book, but I know the anger that surrounds it. People either came out of the cinema calling it a joke, claiming it ruined their Valentines Day. Others wanted to find a dark corner of a room and flagellate to try to rid themselves of the memory. 

I wonder what Berger would make of the movie; he would, perhaps, consider it to be the perfect example of how angry emotions can resonate around the world. 

There are of course other emotions you can tug on. These include awe, anxiety, fear, joy, lust and surprise. To activate them, you need to understand what buttons to push. This is easier than it sounds, particularly in a world in which we care less about the things that matter outside our own circles. It is truly difficult to care about something until you admire it, experience it and understand it.

So the way to tweak emotion in writing is to help people first understand the topic. Once they understand it, you can build admiration for it. Once something is admired, people will want repeat experiences. Not only will your content go viral, so will your product or service.

Let’s have a look at a few emotions and how to tweak them:

Anger – annoy the hell out of someone or challenge their belief and watch them take to Twitter and every other social medium available to them. This is not a good marketing strategy, unless you are creating anger towards something other than your offering. I still wouldn’t recommend it as a long-term strategy.

Anxiety – people hate to lose. They hate to lose out and they hate to lose to others. One of the oldest strategies in the ‘big marketing book’ is to make people that f they don’t buy now, they will regret it later.

Fear – this can be similar to anxiety in that you can create the fear of loss. However you can play on other fears and this will usually motivate people to take action.

Joy – more than anything, people want to feel happy. So share joyous moments with your audience. Share moments of your life, moments in time that have made 99% of the population smile.

Lust – what do people want, what do they lust after. Tap into their desires.

Surprise – you are looking fro a jack-in-the-box moment. This is where knowing your audience is paramount because you can really connect with them by creating something totally different that is still on the message they expect.

4 ways to go viral

Once you have decided which emotions you want to target, it’s time to put your content together and share it. We use Twitter and LinkedIn here, but there are other fora that can really push your message to new audiences.

1.     Discussion boards. Post paragraphs of your articles to discussion boards and join the conversation. Maximise your effort by posting a link to the full article.

2.     Create an e-book out of all of your articles. Make it free and put it into themes. Create a link to it on your website and then watch the download rate spiral. Everyone loves something for free, especially if it offers relevant information.

3.     Create a series of articles. Further to the point above, it is worth sitting down and creating an editorial calendar that serializes the topics you wish to cover. Five articles focusing on different aspects of content market, woth a cliffhanger ending should keep people coming back for more.

4.     Make content freely available. Once again, freely available content that is republishable is invaluable. So at the end of your article make the statement that the article may be redistributed via an e-zine or newsletter with the stipulation that it includes the author’s name, bio and weblink.

According to Noah Kagan, the longer the content, the more shares it gets, with 3,000-10,000 word pieces getting the most average shares (8859 total average shares). It is worth considering the length of your articles and how many people you actually consider to be viral. Whilst there is a science behind going viral, in the end you have to write what you think works for you. If your articles come from a place of your own emotion, then you are more likely than not to attract a crowd.

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Jonathan Jackson

Jonathan Jackson is an experienced editor and writer who has worked in print and digital media for almost 20 years.

Jonathan has edited titles across a range of industries including sports and lifestyle, health, trade and business and finance. Among these titles are Soccer International, Women’s Fitness and Health, Wealth Creator, Think & Grow Rich, Your Trading Edge and Business First of which he is currently the managing editor.

Jonathan has also written two books: Offside - The Wild Side of Soccer and Australia's Wealth Creators.

He is the Media and Content Manager for Marketing Eye.

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