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What Makes Something Go Viral?

What makes something go viral, what makes something shareable, and how can I do it with my content?

By Kelsey LangePublished 6 years ago 7 min read
Top Story - February 2018

To first understand what makes something go viral, you must ask yourself what makes something shareable? The concept is not terribly complex, but one that takes time to incorporate into your content, in a way that will work best for your creating.

Creating content to reach a large audience is something that must not be forced, but made with nine points in mind: emotion, newsworthiness, relatability, surprise, problem-solving, intensity, style, and validation. These concepts can transform your content, allow it to reach an audience on a viral scale, and amplify your voice and strengths.

If you are looking to produce content that will go viral, the first thing to keep in mind is the emotions of your target audience. When you ask yourself what makes something go viral, this should come to mind first. This has a lot to do with clickability, and what will initially draw the audience into your content.

It also has a lot to do with what makes things shareable, and what will draw someone to send your content elsewhere. Emotions connect others to each other, and because your content has sparked an emotion with them, they will be more inclined to share this small experience with others.

This is why content that sparks joy, laughter, nostalgia, sadness, motivation, and really any strong emotion, is the path to take if you are looking to create viral content on the internet. It is also why content that makes people go "awww" or feel hungry will also do exceptionally well.

Being able to make a connection with a reader or a viewer is the best way to set yourself aside from other creators. If you write an article that has one person in mind, this is the best way to connect.

If you are speaking to one person in their room, and they feel as if you understand their story, or are saying all of the right things to inspire them, you will gain a reader who is inclined to share your work. This goes for all types of internet content.


A newsworthy story is always a great way to increase viewership. This goes for anything from politics to the most recent meme. Though it will not create evergreen content, it will be increasingly more sharable during the time that your topic is most relevant.

Newsworthiness is what makes something go viral in many ways. Being a part of the discussion that is already making its rounds through internet platforms, it allows you to jump on board.

And this is especially true if you have something unique to add to the conversation, a new outlook, a personal experience, and something that will spark a nerve with the viewers or readers. Support the trends that are seen throughout news sources, and use them to your own strengths.


Your target audience is always relevant when creating content. Relatability is just as important as quality, because making a post that will practically force people to share it with their friends and followers requires you to relate to your viewers.

As referred to by BuzzFeed's publisher, Dao Nguyen, as cultural cartography in her Ted Talk. As a part of this concept, she explains the job that the content is doing for the reader. One of those jobs is referred to as "this is me."

This concept is the process of people using content as a way to say, this is who I am. This is why content that fits into this box is shareable, because the reader will feel the need to share the post with their friends so that they can express themselves, as well as explain themselves to their followers.

It can even be laughing at themselves. Another job is "this is us," in which the content allows readers to better connect with others. Something that reminds them of their friends, and something that describes a bond with someone in their lives.

Being relatable also allows the reader to connect with you, and the validate the way that they feel, two concepts that will transform your content. Plus, this is a great way to create evergreen content, that will constantly be relevant and relatable.

The element of surprise is definitely what makes something go viral. Because of the way that our brains are wired, we are almost always expecting something. So if something online catches them off-guard, this is a great way to get people to remember your writing or your videos. Going along the same path of being unique, adding a surprising element to your content is a great way to make a statement, and to make it shareable.

People want to see others react the same way that they did. Why do you think jump-scare videos were so popular when YouTube first became popular? As a great way to stand out, surprising articles and content are a perfect way to stir the pot, by creating an unexpected outcome.


Similar to being newsworthy, following trends is what makes something go viral as well. This goes for creating your own trends, too. If you are looking to truly create content that will go viral, then creating something that will turn into a trend is a great way to do so.

To do this, you'll have to keep in mind what is already popular, what makes people interested, and what people are searching. Though much easier said than done, creating a trend is one of the best ways to ensure you will go viral. This has to include interesting content, new topics, shock factor, and basically everything else we've touched on up until now.

Problem Solving

Being a problem solver is what everyone is looking for while making a quick google search. Whether you're providing new recipes, the next product to improve their life, or answers to their dying questions, you're being a problem solver, and there are plenty more ways to accommodate these searchers.

To create content such as this, consider the questions that you tend to google, the topics that are most on your mind, and the struggles that you take on each day. This is the perfect place to incorporate marketing into your content, as well.

Providing solutions to problems often involve purchases. And think on your toes, what is a topic that is a bit more obscure, that still requires solving?

Intensity is also a factor in what makes something go viral. This has a lot to do with creating quality content, in a short, clear, and sincere manner. If you are writing an article, you want to use every word to your advantage, and instead of drawing out your sentences, getting straight to the point with a precise message is the best way to go.

This way, your reader will receive what they want, and you will retain their attention. Plus, you could leave them wanting more.


If you are looking to grow an audience that will provide viral content, creating a style that is unique to you, and that will capture your target audience is a great way to maintain high views and quality content.

Though it will be hard to receive viral hits on this concept alone, making sure that you stay true to your style and your delivery is a great way to provide authenticity, something an audience member or reader will pick up on right away. Show passion for your work, and put energy into each of your posts, rather than writing them with the hopes of creating a viral hit.

Empower Others

A great way to grow the audience of your content is to incorporate others in your work. This is especially true for other content creators, influencers, or advertisers. Empowering others in your work who will do the same for you, and are working toward a similar goal as you, is a great way to expand your viewership.

This works best with empowering other voices that have a similar narrative and message, which will also relate to your audience. A great way to brand and market your content, your process will soon become more of a business agreement, collaborating with other creators to reach a far greater audience.

This goes for brands, influencers, and really anyone who can relate to your work. Just be sure to remain transparent and honest with your audience, and you will strive in creating content that could go viral.

What Not to Do

To complete our explanation for what makes something viral, we wanted to make sure to explain also what doesn't work. To start, long, overdrawn paragraphs in articles never work.

You need structure, and to keep in mind the fact that most readers have a very short attention span. They are looking for the content they clicked on immediately. And they don't want to sift through long words and complex paragraphs with zero breaks. They can find simplicity elsewhere. Mold to the reader's needs.

Another way to lose your readers is to provide boring, fact-heavy information, with zero emotion and zero entertainment. Have a conversation with your reader, or if you're creating a video, talk to your viewers like you would with a friend.

And the last way to lose views and to avoid going viral is over-selling yourself and others. It is apparent to other when you are self-promoting endlessly, as well as trying to push them to buy things. And that is the easiest way to get a click off your page. Be authentic and be genuine instead.

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About the Creator

Kelsey Lange

Passionate about writing, animals, makeup, movies, friends, family, learning, exercising, and laughing!

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    Kelsey LangeWritten by Kelsey Lange

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