Designing Viral Content
In today’s social media landscape, going viral is the ultimate goal for many. Sharing your content with thousands, or even millions, of people not only lets you shine in the digital world but also build a thriving community of followers and, sometimes, gain traction and sales from a single viral post.
There are countless self-proclaimed social media experts out there, each touting their “surefire” strategies for achieving virality. But, in her recent presentation at BrightonSEO 2023 in September, our brilliant Head of Design, Margaret MacArthur, took a closer look at these strategies. Her conclusion might surprise you – many of these so-called “golden tips” are simply basic principles of good social media management. Intrigued? Let’s delve deeper into her perspective:
Social Media Management vs. Virality
First things first, what exactly is virality? By definition, virality is “the tendency of an image, video, or piece of information to be circulated rapidly and widely from one internet user to another.” To put it simply, it means that a single piece of content breaks the usual speed limit of content circulation and spreads like wildfire across the internet. When we talk about virality, we’re not talking about an individual’s overall online presence, their aesthetic, or their feed. We’re talking about that one special piece of content – whether it’s a video, meme, post, or anything else. As you embark on your journey to achieve viral stardom, you’ll undoubtedly come across these so-called tips:
- Post at popular times
- Interact with your community
- Befriend your competitors
- Use hashtags
- Create a series
- Find your niche
- Be consistent
According to Margaret, while these are excellent tips for social media management, they aren’t necessarily tips for going viral, because they apply to multiple pieces of content. The above are things that your social media manager should be doing daily, the basic rules of any effective social media management strategy.
In the image above, we highlight successful TikTok content creators who are often idolized as having “gone viral” when in reality they skillfully employed those social media management techniques to achieve their engagement goals. Their success wasn’t something that happened overnight.
Now that we’re well aware of the differences between social media management and virality, we can hone in on Margaret’s tips solely for going viral. Hint – it’s more about what knowing not to do!
4 Tips in Your Quest for Designing Viral Content
Don’t Be Boring
Recent studies reveal that Generation Z has an attention span of just 8 seconds, and when it comes to ads, that attention span shrinks to a mere 1.3 seconds. Specifically on TikTok, nearly 50% of its users find videos longer than a minute to be overwhelming. This means that creating lengthy content is a surefire way to fade into obscurity. If you’re a brand or agency aiming to expand your reach, keep in mind that, despite your belief in the artistry of your TikTok videos, most people will view them as run-of-the-mill advertisements. While it’s crucial to build trust and rapport with your audience, it’s equally important to get to the point when creating your content. Always remember that you might lose your audience’s interest if you don’t capture it within the first 1.3 seconds.
In the example above, Margaret illustrates how she approached her audience (green text) in a video that went viral, comparing it to an approach that might not have hit the mark (red text).
By keeping your viewers attention span, they’ll watch your video longer, and you’ll and boost your chances of achieving viral success.
Don’t Be Late
On average, TikTok trends tend to lose their shine after just three days, making it essential to hop on the trend train as early as possible – preferably within the first day or two of a trend’s emergence. Waiting until the last minute might not be the wisest use of your time and resources, as most trends likely hit their peak by the second day.
Let’s consider this argument through the lens of TikTok sounds: the three examples above showcase sounds that trended at different times on TikTok. While “August” by Taylor Swift was a soundtrack throughout the entire month, in general, the content that truly stands out was typically posted within that initial three-day window. Beyond that, content tends to get recycled and loses its appeal.
Avoid Being Overly Niche
While building a niche community is a key part of social media management, aiming for pure virality requires a different approach. To achieve widespread appeal, being overly niche can hinder your chances of going viral. Take Margaret’s example: out of 12 videos that went viral on her TikTok account, 3 had nothing to do with flowers, which is her account’s primary niche. This demonstrates that if your primary goal is to go viral, when a great idea comes to you that doesn’t necessarily fit within your niche, don’t be afraid to share it!
Reconsider Ultra High-Quality Visuals
It may sound counterintuitive, but if your goal is to go viral on TikTok, investing excessive time in creating exceptionally high-quality visuals can actually work against you. Unless your content revolves around travel or photography, which demand a higher level of visual dedication, the pursuit of top-tier quality content can be excessively time-consuming and resource-draining. TikTok thrives on a more spontaneous, personable, and humorous vibe. To stand out on this platform, you’re better off with less elaborate content, leaving the meticulous visual finesse for platforms like Instagram.
Take, for example, a case study of an extremely well-curated and designed Harry Potter cooking page. Despite its top-notch visuals and well-thought-out content, the user eventually stopped using the account because the effort invested in production far exceeded the rewards reaped. Spending a long time on a single piece of content and not seeing the expected returns can be disheartening, which is why we caution against over-prioritizing fancy content.
To sum up these recommendations, here are four short tips that can boost your chances of going viral:
- Cut out long intros and videos full of ethos as they can bore your viewer.
- Be quick with trending sounds or it might not be worth your time.
- Don’t be afraid to step out of your niche if you have a great idea.
- Don’t prioritise fancy content over creating content.
When it comes to increasing your chances of going viral online, the most crucial factor is to keep creating content. Viral content is like winning the lottery, so the more “lottery tickets” you purchase, the better your odds become.