How I Learned to Create Viral Content (and You Can Too)

How I learned to create viral content

In August 2015, we had to write 5 articles in 7 days for a few sites we were guest blogging at. It was tough given the 3-people marketing team we had then. I volunteered to contribute and wrote my very first blog post, which eventually was scrapped by the publication it was intended for. Anyhow, my team liked it and published it on our blog.

Every day, I shared it almost everywhere, just to get the share count up. Numbers fascinate me, and I loved it when they got better, even when they meant nothing more than false credibility. Few months later, one Thursday night, around 11:30 PM, I randomly shared it in one of the LinkedIn group, but with a different headline.

Next morning, to my disbelief it got around 1200 hits and 100+ shares on LinkedIn alone and that was just the beginning. In 3 days that followed, it got about 15,000 hits and traveled more than 20 countries. LinkedIn picked it up and emailed it to the group members. Every time I refreshed, I saw notifications. It had gone viral.

Creating viral content - traffic spike

Initially, I thought it was a fluke but when we could replicate the success with this blog from Meenu, my colleague, we knew we had done something right.

I have heard that great content is the soul of everything viral. But what is great content? Does it make you curious, leaves you surprised, evokes emotions, provides information or all of that?

I wouldn’t say I know the art and science of viral content, but I very clearly remember what worked for me, and that’s what I will share with you today.

It attracted

For a month, it was going nowhere, but then I changed the headline

from

Why a landing page converts better than a homepage

to

Landing page vs Homepage

It suddenly got the buzz. The introduction of the word “vs” brought contrast to the headline, interrupting people’s autopilot mode and tempting them to check what it really was. This was the turning point for the blog and possibly my career. I truly understood the power of the headline.

It was easy to understand

People regularly ask me what a landing page is, and how it is different from a homepage? I wanted to answer them in the simplest possible way. While writing, I projected the askers (in my mind) and wrote for them. Before publishing, I asked those people (in real), if they understood it or not. I retained what they understood and removed what they didn’t, which eventually reduced the blog to 300 words. But it didn’t matter. The message was delivered.

It was easy to relate to

To make it connect to the audience, I took a real life incident, and used analogy of a restaurant where the menu is the homepage and their promotional flyer is a landing page with an offer. It is easier to understand things we relate to, and we relate to stories.

Everyone has stories; the challenge is to express them, and linking them naturally to the idea you wish to share with the world, without making it vague and forceful. I got lucky that the analogy stuck.

It engaged

I was so overwhelmed by the unexpected success that I was up all night, hitting refresh every 30 seconds to see the new shares and comments, and replying to each one of them within minutes, if not seconds. Comments added fuel to the fire. Soon, it became a big chain of comments with many marketing pros sharing their thoughts and adding to the conversation. Checkout the Linkedin comment chain here.

(you have to join the group to see the discussion)

How to create viral content - LinkedIn discussion

Someone even wanted to write an article from the comments itself. Such was the power of comments.

It was timed right

Thursday, 11:30 PM IST. I will never forget this time because that’s when the action started. Not once or twice, but most of the times. The probable reason was that people in the Eastern Time Zone, who are more likely to share were checking their social profiles before getting back to work (post lunch), when they noticed the discussion.

The probable reason for Thursdays getting the best traction is that LinkedIn emails its best discussions to the group subscribers on Thursday.

The nature of the platform played a major role as well. Since LinkedIn is more centered towards professionals than Facebook or Twitter, people are more likely to engage in meaningful discussions related to their expertise. That’s what resulted in a very lively discussion, and ultimately shares.

I was persistent 

I never gave up. Repeatedly sharing at different timings with different headlines in different groups. I believed in what I wrote and that belief kept me going. I was lucky to be rejected. Without that rejection, this would have never happened.

To sum it up, it was like a dream. I never expected it to go this far, but like most other things, it just happened. Hopefully, this article will help you get one step closer to your destination ‘Viral’. Just be original and keep sharing your stories. It’s not very far.

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