Going viral is not just about videos, it is also about images, text, infographics, social media posts, blog posts, full articles, pod casts, audio–well, you get the idea. If something is able to pass on information, then it may go viral. Making something go viral is very difficult, and many people misunderstand what makes a piece go viral. This article may help to clear things up to the point where it may not help you create a viral piece, but it will help you identify what is not going to go viral.

There are no set rules for what goes viral

They say that marketing has rules, and that even though you can change and pervert the rules–they still exist. The same is not true of viral marketing. For example, with regular marketing, there always has to be an offer. You can cover it up, twist and sugar coat it as much as possible, but the fact is that there is an offer. With viral marketing there is no offer. It is to your advantage if you can install an offer, but something that goes viral does not need to host an offer. It does not even need to promise to be funny, enlightening, moving, sad or thought provoking.

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The fact is that if you are trying to work your viral marketing around an idea or a rule, then you are going to fail more often than you succeed. As illogical as it sounds, your instincts may provide a better hit rate than working to a viral marketing rule.

It always involves a number of factors

There is never one defining rule or factor that makes a piece go viral. Some people think that the piece has to be funny or shocking, but it can be neither and both. For example, the short GIF showing two people rescue baby bears from a large dumpster whilst only feet away from a frantic mother bear was not funny or shocking, but it still went viral.

The viral video with the black woman being interviewed by the reporter and saying “Ain’t nobody got time for that” went viral on a massive scale. Sure, it was a little bit funny because of the way she said it, and the context and setting made it funny too. But, those were not the only factors at play. It was at a time when the global economy was still in a free-fall, and people literally had bigger things to worry about than trivial news-filler items, and she encapsulated that idea perfectly. Some people think that it was the news topic that also made the piece more important, but years later it is the comment she made, and the way she said it that is remembered, and not the topic she was saying it about.

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As a rule, it is the stuff that makes you smile

Take a look at all the things that have gone viral, and most of them will make you smile. But, again, there are no rules, which is why the video of the allied forces in Iraq playing with a puppy shortly before drop kicking it off a cliff went viral but made few people smile.

But, on the whole, if it makes you smile then it is likely to go viral. If you watch a video with a counter that counts every time Charlie Sheen says “Winning” and a smile creeps across your face, then there is a chance that it is going to go viral. If you are looking at an Infographic of the slow decline of M. Night Shyamalan’s career and it makes you smile, then it is probably going viral.

Just because it interests you does not make it viral material

This is a very important point, because some people think that just because a piece thrills them that it is going to go viral. A comic strip showing cartoon characters of Captain Janeway slapping Seven of Nine and telling her to cheer her ass up, may make you smile, but it may not go viral (even in the Star Trek Voyager crowd, especially when you consider the “ahem“ fan art already available).

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Does it really thrill you? Or, are you still on a creation high?

When we create something, we tend to enjoy it. This creates what is known as a creation high, which often makes things such as proofreading, continuity checking and bug hunting a lot harder. Does what you created really thrill you as much as you are telling yourself? Come back to it in a few days or weeks and see if you can improve it further.


Kate Funk is a guest contributor here and she works as a freelance writer at, where everybody can control and coordinate content writing process, from choosing your own writer to accepting or rejecting the final work result.

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