Can 1 Extra Simple Step Create Viral Content Marketing SUCCESS?

by | Jan 15, 2015

17 min read

The rise and rise in popularity of content marketing is, by now, well documented. In its shadow, savvy marketers are implementing Personal Branding into their content mix. It is they who achieve more stickiness, more viral content S.U.C.C.E.S.S., more often than others. So exactly how can we make “sticky” content?

Content is king; engagement is his new queen

The new content marketing paradigm is now tightly knit with social engagement and sharing. Producing great content is no longer sufficient, we need to get our content sticky.

Content marketing while becoming a seriously trending topic in the last 3 years, was alive long before its recent resurgence, Dan & Chip Heath’s “Made to Stick” was a best seller long before its recent popularity.

The Six Seven steps to Viral Content SUCCESS



We must create ideas that are both simple and profound. tweet this

Experts can either over-explain a topic and come across as patronizing or they love the sound of their own voice. Conversely, non-experts dabbling in a field they know little about can miss a topic’s point all too easily.
To make simplicity memorable, we must deliver a topic’s core value in a concise, profound way that leaves the reader positive about the point, consider its virtues and want to share that golden snippet with their tribe.


…surprise doesn’t last. For our idea to endure, we must generate interest and curiosity.tweet this

Most copywriters are capable of shocking readers; but simply grabbing attention isn’t enough to make content stick.
We need to open our readers’ minds with unexpected snippets of fact or a singular viewpoint then close that gap quickly before any of their newfound knowledge seeps away due to lack of retention. This mirrors the Gruen Transfer effect observed in advertising.


Naturally sticky ideas are full of concrete images because our brains are wired to remember concrete data.tweet this

There’s no point being vague when we want to create viral content. We have to sell the concept as an all-encompassing, quick-setting and impenetrable as concrete.
One way to solidify imagery (and plug the gap of unexpectedness) is by imparting a complete idea. People not only believe in a whole thought more readily, but they can also take ownership more comfortably when they share that nugget.


Sticky ideas have to carry their own credentials. We need ways to help people test our ideas for themselves tweet this

Figures in authority carry instant credibility. Well, supposedly. But in most instances, we react negatively to domineering people whose decisions are accepted unchallenged and followed blindly by the flock.
Starting from scratch
For a person or entity looking to build their brand from scratch, any authority has to be earned. In order to become thought leaders in our field the information we share, hence endorse, has to be credible.
However, we also need to provide a way for our audience to test our proclamations for themselves. If they can then implement that which we’ve suggested may be a good fit and add value for them, they’ll more than likely remember us as well as the concept itself and be our fan for life.
If what we’re sharing is flawed or paper-thin, we may get away with it with your friends and family, but when that weak argument is judged by critical peers in our niche and found to be lacking, credibility and any aspiration of becoming an authority sail out the window with our opportunity.


We are hard-wired to feel things for people, not for abstractions.tweet this

Do not underestimate the power of emotive writing. If we can tug at people’s heart strings and emote them to side with us before they’ve finished reading an article or viewing a series of images, their heart has voted in favour of the concept way before the old grey matter has a chance to get its foot in the door.
When many of think of dealing in emotions, we often reach for the Kleenex to wipe away tears of grief before you’ve delivered the sucker punch.
But doom and gloom is totally the wrong platform to be standing on for the emotional train heading to viral content land.
Emotional virality study of NYT articleNew York Times Article virality
The University of Pennsylvania monitored the virality of New York Times articles over three months.
The team set the ‘most e-mailed list’ as the yardstick by which to measure the ‘stickiness’, attaching an emotion to each of the articles to see which feelings triggered viral content the most.
The graph (right) is not a genuine template to create viral content. However, it does give us pointers to shareability when considering which emotions to include in our message.
Sadness Sucks
Although sadness may pluck at our heartstrings, people do not want to be the harbingers of doom. At least according to the research results.
Content that emotes us highly, igniting feelings like anger or awe, surprise or anxiety for example, is likely to want to make people share that news. If we combine positivity with high emotion, we’re well on the way to the sticky world cup finals. Source
Dan Heath himself explains a little more about using emotion in a business sense in this video.


…hearing [or reading] stories acts as a kind of mental flight simulator, preparing us to respond more quickly and effectively. tweet this

Storytelling is an Art
Storytelling is where good content marketers close the circle. An art that dates back to 4,200 BC, according to the CIM infographic. Yes, that probably is Biblical Content.
Using storytelling to build up a picture is a fine art.
But mastering it is infinitely easier than trying to fit the five principles of viral content above into a straight sales pitch or blog post.
Demotivational poster credits: S. U. C. C. E. S. S.

ShareabilityBonus ‘S’ – SHAREABILITY

Where people after Dan and Chip have dared to tread, i.e. adding the final S to complete the S.U.C.C.E.S.S. acronym, is to tag a second ‘simple’ on the end.
When considering the sticky virtues of content, the more people share our content across more social networks, the more chance we have of the ripples reaching whole new audiences.
Headlines make, well… headlines
The principles of stickiness don’t singularly apply to the content’s body; it’s also preferable to weave some, if not all, of the above best practices into both the major headline and subsequent headings.

On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar – David Ogilvy. tweet this stat.

Our main title needs to invoke a reader’s curiosity and make them desirous of the answer. It also needs to make them feel; there go those heartstrings again, but they are there for the tugging.

The difference between these two titles
Title 15 Common Grammatical Errors 15 Ways Grammar Can Ruin Your Personal Brand
Effect Arouses curiosity in copywriters Gets us emotive and appeals to a broader audience

Beyond Headlines
If we’ve worked hard to build a following online, we’re going to read the second article to ensure that the content under our personal brand doesn’t succumb to any of those pitfalls.

Viral content - understanding skim reading

Headings are, of course, only a part of the story. Think of them as bases in a baseball. We’ve survived the pitch and know that, by getting readers to next base, we’ll be safe. ish. But a lot can happen in between to send us to the dugout.
There are thousands of articles in the blogosphere that would grace any website. The crying shame is the authors of those pieces simply don’t have a clue about marketing. To start engaging people, we’ve got to put our content where it’s going to be found.
Use Sub-heading
Research has found that breaking up lengthy articles with attention-grabbing sub-headings is also more likely to make readers stick with our program and be willing to share our content because ‘they get it’.
Even though some articles may be akin to academic papers in comparison with content they generally read skim online, if they can enhance their own reputation by sharing ours, they will readily.

Sticky Content is only the first step

Find the right people
As with all inbound marketing activities, the first step is to find people on the platform we can purposefully engage with and eventually begin to market to and then start ‘listening’ to what they’re posting.
Gatecrashers aren’t welcome and getting muted or suspended for spam is easier now than ever.
Listen first
Understanding what our potential audience wants to hear is key. What makes them tick will soon become apparent and by engaging, thus engendering trust, our voices start to resonate with followers through our content.
When people begin to like the sound of our silky tones and what we’ve got to say, that’s when we can start to think ‘sticky’ thoughts.
Curate before create
We only add to the conversation when we see fit and when we can real add to the subject. When we are short of time and resources to create a truly remarkable content piece, we prefer borrowing. By curating content for our audience, we transfer some of the authors credits by being the one discovering and carefully selecting them on behalf of our audience.
Be patient
Patience is one part of the formula; listening another. The seven principles of viral content are definitely the core around which we should build our personal brand, which will become our launchpad to viral content when all of the conditions are met.
By crafting content around those principles and going out on a limb sometimes, pushing boundaries to see what works and what doesn’t, we intuitively suss what each platform expects of us.
Leverage the Tastemakers
Waiting for traffic to find our website, even by incorporating best practices, can be a long, lonely process. If we don’t have a far-reaching circle of friends and family, we need to get our content in front of ‘tastemakers’.

Why videos go viral - YouTube Leverage tastemakers to build your popularity

Youtube videos are probably the pinnacle of tastemakers discovery effect. Think of The Double rainbow success in 2010; thanks to Jimmy Kimmel, the video made Youtube “hall of fame”. Kevin Allocca show why certain videos go viral his TED talk.
While videos often get popular for their spontaneous nature, to get that vote for a standard corporate content/text, we must build up credibility first and make our story stand out from the crowd to get his attention and subsequent endorsement.
Amplify your content with strategic ads
When budget permits, using carefully targetted social media ads can be a very effective. Every social platform from Reddit to twitter to top newspapers now has a content amplification solution to help you reach broader audiences than what your current clout would offer you.
Note – In any case, budget should not be a substitute for planning and engagement, just an extra boost to increase the reach of your valuable content piece.

Don’t limit yourself by thinking small

With access to all manner of channels to reach potentially huge audiences, our reach will only be limited by how daring we want to be.

Use Followerwonk to find journalists
Engage with journalists
Reporters and journalists have access to not only digital media outlets but traditional offline media, too. Or similar to those blogs we mentioned above, by getting featured on their site or through traditional media will see our audience and link juice achieve unprecedented growth immediately.
It’s worth adding that tastemakers have got where they are by carving a niche. If we identify such an influencer and would love them to share our work, create content that appeals both to their audience and raises their credibility even further.
Give to get
One thing we soon learn about viral content is that the path to mega-sharedom is often laid on a base of giving freely of ourselves beforehand.
If you think that sharing this article will help reinforce your personal brand, then please feel free to share it to your tribe. Your credibility starts here.
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