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Viral Potential: Putting Your Content on the Global Stage

Viral Potential: Putting Your Content on the Global Stage

As the number of internet users rises every year, so too does the amount of time people are spending online. It’s estimated that in 2018 alone, there will be a billion years’ worth of internet usage across the globe. While algorithms and targeted ads largely determine what we see everyday, what does content have to do to broaden its appeal and reach a global audience?

Viral content is infamously difficult to achieve, and while its production can be arduous, it proves invaluable when well executed. When measured against the entire realm of content, virality is understandably scarce. The task of creating something that resonates with the sentiments of millions isn’t without its challenges, but proven techniques do exist. Awareness of the hurdles and constraints of producing content without borders is only half of the battle, and below we’ve outlined a few other key points to help you capitalise on this ever growing, international market.


I. The Language Barrier

The inclusion of text in any piece of visual content can often be unavoidable, but technological advancements leave marketers, facing translation issues, with little excuse. In the retail sector, a study found that 82% of shoppers were unlikely to buy from pages not displaying information in their native tongue. While it is crucial that marketers treat their consumers with this in mind, it’s equally important to recognise how content gets lost in translation.

Extensive usage of culturally-rooted language is one of the key factors in content becoming isolated to one nation, region or market. Colloquial phrases may make a piece seem more personal, but it reduces understanding across the global market in a way that limits international placements.

Rather than shelving the idea of using creative and emotive language in a piece of content, agencies and marketers can make effective use of professional translation. Selecting key languages to convert to will give a piece a large scope of appeal without sacrificing the quality of copy. Moreover, if you’re outsourcing the translation process, it can also be helpful and time-efficient to convert any press materials into the same language in order to bolster your outreach process. This ensures that the piece is outreached in a manner that considers both the journalists who will place the article and the readers the content is aimed at.

We created an infographic for major online financial trading platform eToro, which was translated into French, German and Arabic. The graphic has been one of Kaizen’s most successful pieces of work, gaining 624 SEO-valuable follow links and over 1000 pieces of coverage, including press from every continent. The success of the piece was borne out of the fact that it used a popular and universal topic, in cryptocurrency, and that it fundamentally contains simple but effective visualisations of data that can be communicated almost anywhere.

Naturally, this approach can be subject to criticisms at both ends in how it is not always possible to source a translator, nor should a piece of content be limited to just the four languages we selected. A quick fix to remove language barriers from a piece of content is to utilise the auto-translate feature that google offers through the way your content is coded. Optimising your work for different languages around the world will limit bounce rates and encourage people from other nations and cultures to interact with your content. In a 2017 study, the United States was the only english-speaking country in the top 10 countries for internet users, finding themselves outranked by both China and India. Figures such as this only bolster the notion that limiting your content to a single language is unwise. Taking the right steps to ensure that your work is legible anywhere, and by anyone, is a crucial decision for anyone producing content for a global audience.


II. Fear of Seasonality

The dangers of producing content that boils down to a singular event or time-period are renowned across the content industry. Lags in production or slow outreach processes may mean that you miss the mark and have to dispose of an entire piece.

As we venture into the realm of globally appealing content, attempting to use seasonality can result in a lack of understanding on both sides. Firstly, you may produce content that ties in events that are not global, which foreign markets will not understand and therefore would be unlikely to place. On the other hand, the attempts to shoehorn a brand into an event or occasion may appear inauthentic and limit your success.

The idea, therefore, is less about time constraints but about selecting the right time and the suitable tone in a manner that appears universal. One example of localised content that functions for the masses is a piece produced by Statista during Chinese New Year. The overarching theme of the graphic is human migration, and shows how many people travel throughout the ‘Spring Festival’ compared to other famous global events. The examples give the piece a broad scope of appeal with links to markets in the US, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and India. The graphic achieved over 50 links across several nations and, while seasonal, is a piece that can be outreached throughout every year.

Content that is both localised and seasonal can be effective by picking a globally recognisable event with a broad theme. Concepts as simple as the one used by Statista provide little opportunity for a piece to be misunderstood, ensuring that the content can function on a large scale.


III. Emotion Focussed Content

When attempting to achieve global success through content, thematic direction is often valued over the emotions a piece can trigger from a viewer. Primal instincts are the first set of reactions anyone has, and a study carried out by Fractl found that positive emotions outweigh negative in terms of shareability. The research found that people are drawn to sentiments such as amusement and happiness more so than shock. Prioritising the emotional appeal of a piece of content helps to consider the user at every stage of production.

A method in which this can be achieved without falling foul of language barriers is by placing emphasis on visual components of content. Graphics, photos and videos are a universal storytelling method which, when paired with positivity and a popular theme, can prove fruitful. An example of this concept functioning well came a few years back in a video from social-media management platform Hootsuite. The company loosely tied their product in with the immensely popular HBO series Game of Thrones by producing a parody of the title sequence which swapped the Kingdoms of the series’ fictional world with different social media platforms.

The piece is fundamentally light-hearted, does not use any language and is universal in how it uses a popular show distributed into 170 countries across the world. The 90-second animated video achieved over 1 million views and 150 unique backlinks; a vast success for such a simple concept. While our news and current affairs is often dominated by negativity and shocking images, this clearly does not need to be the case with content. Evoking emotional responses acts as the communication for content aiming to reach multiple nations and cultures.  

However, this is not to suggest that emotional reactions achieved through our content derive from just the simplicity of a piece. People can be entertained or informed by work of varying complexity, just so long as it is accessible. Content that is versatile stands in a much better position to have a global appeal, which rings true for many of the examples already shown.

Last year, Kaizen produced a data study in relation to the topic of work/life balance for our client and credit eligibility specialists TotallyMoney. The graphic compared the time devoted to work, sleep and leisure in 22 different nations across Europe. While simple, with regard to both data and design, both the topic matter and multinational appeal meant that the content was adaptable to different markets. The piece gained 57 links from the likes of Lonely Planet and CNTraveler, but more notably, in multiple countries including many that were not included in the study.

The subject matter of how we balance work and our free-time is a global concept and a fundamentally emotional one for many people. The success of a piece like this is driven somewhat from how it resonates with a typical audience, in this case working European adults.  

The production of content that has the ability to reach the masses is, therefore, as much about what you do as it is about what you avoid doing. Overcoming language barriers and issues surrounding seasonality in your content is helped by a combination preparation and detail. So set your sights high, be thorough, and your quest for viral content could well prove successful.  


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Jeremy McDonald

Jeremy McDonald is the CEO at Kaizen.


Following 5 years at the agency, Jeremy took the reins as CEO at the end of 2023. A digitally focused marketing leader with in-depth experience across SEO, analytics, digital PR & content, he is passionate about using digital marketing to grow brands online. His main priority is to bring Kaizen’s organic marketing products to a broader client base whilst developing his specialist in-house team of 50+ digital experts.

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