Making a post or tweet ‘go viral’ has become the internet equivalent of the Philosopher’s Stone. Just as medieval alchemists labored over bubbling jars trying to find the magic formula to transmute base metal into gold, so modern marketers struggle over bubbling keyboards (OK,not quite) to find the right combination of words, images and ideas that makes people want to share content with everyone they know online. But we have things medieval alchemists didn’t have, like soap and teeth, but also like collaborations between analyser BuzzSumo and Content Marketers Fractl, who got together to analyse shares of over a million articles to find out what everyone should be doing to turn the base metal of a status update into viral gold.
1: Match the mood to the network
Different social networks have different ‘moods.’ LinkedIn is prevailingly positive: complaints don’t get much traction, but 70% of its top-shared articles were positive, while for Twitter, only 40% were positive, with 46% being negative and 14% neutral. On Facebook, still by far the biggest social network, the mood appears a bit negative – 47% negative, in fact, 36% positive and 17% neutral. (Once you correct for BuzzFeed and Upworthy’s relentless cheeriness it’s even darker: 30% positive, 57% negative.)
2: Facebook is where the sharing (mostly) happens
Facebook has about 62% of all the users of the top 5 social media platforms, but sees a disproportionate 82% of the shares. Either users are more engaged with Facebook, more likely to share content or possibly both: it’s not just that there are so many of them. Twitter has disproportionate virality too: it’s about the same size as LinkedIn but sees about four times as many shares.
3: Getting shared isn’t easy…
In fact,the vast majority of the most successful publishers manage only about 5, 000 shares per piece on average. Who does significantly better? Only Upworthy and BuzzFeed – but getting shares is basically their whole reason to exist. They do have some techniques we can all follow to get better results though…
4: Mystery and suspense, surprise and a twist in the tail
Posts that contain gems of unexpected information, or that trigger the ‘information gap’ effect (you won’t believe what that is) do best. We get hooked on stories quickly and the best simple narratives are already being told in headlines, making us want to click on them to find out how the story ends. This is in large part how BuzzFeed does it, though other factors like addressing news stories and social concerns is a part of their method too.
5: If you’re not killing it on every social network, that’s OK
…neither is anyone else. Most companies are really only succeeding on one or two social networks and for the majority, even that is a struggle. For marketers, it makes sense to figure out which networks clients stand to gain most from and focus, rather than trying to dominate across all networks.