Despite what many content marketers might think, viral content isn’t such a shot in the dark.
A study by Fractl and Moz analyzed the content of more than 300 content marketing strategies and determined that yes, your organization’s content will probably fail before it succeeds.
The methodology behind a specific campaign’s success, however, shouldn’t be overlooked.
Are certain topics more share-worthy? Yes.
Will specific factors earn higher-profile links? Yes, that, too.
In the 300-plus campaigns that Fractl analyzed, emotion, wide appeal, geographic angling and “indie” culture topped the list of viral campaign topics.
To boost your content’s link-earning potential, here are a few takeaways from each topic and how to tailor your efforts accordingly:
1. Evoke a strong, emotional response.
Does an infographic or article ever make your skin crawl? Has a video ad ever made you get teary-eyed at work? If yes, then those content marketers have successfully struck an emotional chord with you—a new member of their audience.
Fractl data found that the more attached consumers felt to brand’s campaign, the more likely they were to share it.
“Emotional impact was the greatest differentiator between our most successful campaigns and all other campaigns,” the study states. “Our campaigns that received more than 20,000 social [media] shares were eight times more likely to include a strong emotional hook than campaigns that received fewer than 1,000 shares.”
Additionally, the study found that including an element of surprise helped to strengthen a piece of content’s emotional impact.
If you want to see your content rise in shares, “likes” and links, Fractl advises adding a shock factor or “an additional layer of emotionality to [an] already emotional topic.”
2. Choose topics with wide appeal
When tracking analytics, there’s a range of quality when determining the value of your links and shares. If a high-profile website or blog links to your story, the more valuable it becomes.
When it comes to “high-quality” links, here’s what data show:
[There’s a] correlation between high average domain authority and content topics with mass appeal. Broad topics appeal to a greater range of publishers, thus increasing the number of relevant high-authority sites your content can be placed on.
How can your content get picked up by “high-authority” sites? Fractl and Moz found that wide-appeal topics such as entertainment, travel and retail have a greater chance.
“[Those] tend to have a high average domain authority per placement since these verticals naturally lend themselves to content ideas with mass appeal,” the study states.
3. Incorporate a geographic angle
If your topic has wide appeal, that doesn’t mean it can’t also relate to a certain demographic or region.
“Geography-focused topics help attract interest from international and regional publishers, thus securing additional links,” the study states.
If you’re aiming for shares on social media platforms such as Instagram, a geographic angle is even more important.
Here are each state’s most popular locations for an Instagram post—and tag:
If you seek to see your content soar in the real world, here’s what the study advises:
Consider pitching relevant TV and radio stations with geo-themed content that offers new data; traditional news outlets seem to love these stories. We’ve had multiple geo-focused campaigns featured on national and local news stations simply because they saw the story getting covered by online media.
4. Pop culture = youth culture = shares
If your primary audience falls within a certain demographic, tailor your topics to pique their cultural interests.
Here’s what data show on campaigns with a pop culture or indie culture reference:
Our campaigns with more than 100 pickups were nearly twice as likely to incorporate a pop culture theme [compared with] our campaigns with fewer than 20 pickups. Content that ties in pop culture is primed for targeting a niche of dedicated fans who will want to share and discuss it like crazy while it simultaneously resonates on a surface level for many people. Geek-culture themes, such as comic books and sci-fi movies, tend to attract a lot of attention thanks to rabid fan bases.
If you can’t find a way to incorporate “Game of Thrones” into your next content marketing strategy, Fractl and Moz advise going the nostalgia route:
Old-school pop culture references are effective for creating strong feelings of nostalgia (think: everything in BuzzFeed’s ‘ 90s category). If your audience falls within a certain age bracket, consider what would be nostalgic to them. What did they grow up with, and how can you weave this into your content?
To make that tactic more manageable, appeal to a range of fans. Instead of tailoring your content to relate to a single demographic (e.g., David Bowie fans), try broadening it to devotees of music superstars or cultural icons in rock history.
If you seek to produce viral content, swing for the fences, and don’t be afraid to strike out.