What makes content go viral?

What makes content go viral?  This is a very tricky question. However, there are some people who craft spreadable content every single time.

Viral content is any piece of media that becomes wildly popular overnight. It could be a YouTube video, Facebook post, tweet, or almost any social media content that gets shared thousands and thousands of times. What’s their secret? Do they know something you don’t?

Yep! They do and “eventuarily😉” all viral shares a similar trait of containing useful information for an audience. We shall be unlocking this viral code.

Jonah Berger, the Wharton marketing professor and author of Contagious. Gave us the formula for viral content and we shall be examining them

Social currency

First off Social Currency. According to Vivaldi Partners, Social currency is the extent to which people share information about the brand as part of their everyday social lives at work or at home

Jonah Berger identified three ways we can make people want to share our brand for to earn social currency amongst their peers.

  1. Identify what’s remarkable about your brand
  2. Utilize game mechanics (in form of trivia’s and online competitions)
  3. Make people feel like insiders


Triggers are what stimuli that make people want to share your content. According to Jonah Berger, “triggers not only get people talking, they keep them talking. Top of mind means tip of tongue.”

 Often people may enjoy your content, but don’t feel like crowding their feed with it. To create triggers, you will need to think about the environments of the people a message or idea is trying to trigger, pick triggers that happen near where the desired behavior is taking place and do not forget to add a call to action to get views to take actions.



Make your brand visible so that people will notice it and want to follow it. When white Apple earphones first appeared, everyone saw them as being trendy and cool. We all wanted one. If a particular aspect of your brand/product is public-facing, it will trigger people to think about your brand.

If they feel a connection with your brand jumping on a news bandwagon is a popular method, and it does work – if something is popular already, it will probably become more popular. 

Practical value

No matter how many cat videos you’ve seen online, practical, useful stuff gets shared more often. By offering useful tips to help your customers improve, you’ll also allow them to see that you’re passionate about helping them. They’ll also share it with people they think might benefit from it. These contents could be in form of listicles, info-graphics, guides and FAQs.


People respond to stories better than to any other forms of content. Tell a story – and people are more likely to read/watch/listen till the end, enjoy the process, share. Your content should be wrapped up in a shareable story or narrative. Your product must be an integral part of the story to ensure that people remember it, even if they forget about the product itself.



 According to Megan Conley “We all have opinions on what types of content go viral: a soundless social video, a data-backed explainer, a cat video. But no matter the format, it ultimately comes down to emotion. Does the story make you feel enraged, inspired, understood? With everything you create you have to ask: If this scrolled by on my news feed, would I care? If the answer is no, it’s not worth it. Your online content habits are your own best judge.”

What makes content shareable and compelling is when it touches the audience by invoking powerful emotions. Why are cat videos so popular? Why are laughing baby videos common? Why are refugee stories compelling? Because they amuse us, entertain us and they trigger emotions. When your content activates very strong emotions there is a greater chance that it will go viral. When you think of the emotions found in most viral videos it’s best to think in terms of awe, anger, anxiety, fear, joy, lust, humor, and surprise.

In conclusion, build a social currency-laden, triggered, emotional, public, practically valuable Story, but don’t forget to hide your message inside. Make sure your desired information is so embedded into the plot that people can’t tell the story without it.



Related Posts

Leave a comment