There are thousands of pieces of content being posted every day, with an average of eight shares per post. But we always seem to dwell on that handful of posts that have run rampant across our channels with millions of likes, comments, and shares. Many companies aim to produce viral content, knowing that one viral post can make for exceptional brand awareness and even increased revenue if executed properly.

Campaigns that go viral are rarely anticipated, often unusual, and spark a lot of commotion. Some viral content is so ridiculous you may wonder how it ever got so much traction, like the dress saga of 2015 that haunted social media for months. (C’mon, it was blue!)

Even though it’s nearly impossible to pin down what makes a post go viral in the first place, there is a formula that can boost the “share-ability” of your posts. It requires just the right mixture of targeting, trends, and creativity to accomplish it. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredient #1: Striking Visuals

Viral campaigns typically contain loud, attention-grabbing imagery or videography that force people to stop scrolling through their feed and consume them. However, it’s becoming harder than ever before to be noticed in the ocean of striking content available on these platforms. This is because social channels, such as Twitter and Facebook, are becoming content hubs rather than just a place to share photos express opinions. Because the majority of human species are visual learners, always choose imagery that is creative, clear, and bright, quotes that are grammatically correct, and videos with quick load times. Be cognizant of the fact that people are exploring social media to find content that contrasts the mundane and the ordinary. It doesn’t matter whether your content is a quote, a list, a video, or an eBook; the more stimulating the content, the more effective your posts will be.

Ingredient #2: Engaging Content

A great way to appeal to all audiences is by using a readable, conversational tone when communicating content. Keywords, tags, titles, and summaries are some of the initial ways that your content will resonate (or not resonate) with others. Make sure your post has a few, relevant and simple keywords in the headline to target the right audiences. Some of the most popular content comes from short, yet inspiring copy that leaves an impact on audiences – while others are witty or outright funny. Whichever route you choose when writing, make sure it can immediately fascinate your audiences enough to read, watch, or share your work.

Ingredient #3: Riveting Emotion

Inciting emotion is the foundation for getting people to share content; whether it made them laugh, cry, or think about something in a new light. People feel obligated to show their peers a piece of content if they are consumed by it or emotionally attached to it because they want others to feel those emotions as well. A study done by Jonah Berger theorizes that emotional arousal excites us and sharing can provide a sense of closure and relief from this state, which might be a factor as to why emotional posts can go viral quickly. Take, for example, the Budweiser commercial about the lost puppy. Viewers go through a rollercoaster of emotions as a puppy is lost and then found, in just one minute of videography. Not only did it top the AdMeter for best commercial of Super Bowl XLVII, but it raked in over 31 million views and became one of social media’s most discussed moments of 2014.

Ingredient #4: Trending Topics

Posting a fantastic piece of content about a trend that’s on its way out won’t get a lot of traction because audiences are already on to bigger and better topics. For this reason, it’s important to stay ahead of what is current. Be strategic in who you follow on different social media channels; thought leaders and news headliners will keep you aware of what is happening in the world across all industries.

Posting content during the peak of a trend is fundamental for a post to go viral because the keywords you choose will be circulating in the social media realm. As a new trend is surfacing, audiences will be more likely to engage, share, and promote your piece if it adds new value to what everyone is talking about. 

Ingredient #5: Enthralling Lists

Research has shown that lists are widely popular because they imply that the content will be easy to consume. For example, “Start Living a Happier Life” seems far less readable than “6 Ways to Live a Happier Life.” The latter suggests that there will be a step-by-step approach that will walk you directly towards the life you want, rather than a text-heavy article containing an overwhelming amount of information.

BuzzFeed is infamous for its viral list; one of the most popular being 50 People You Wish You Knew in Real Life that acquired 10 million views in 2012. This compilation of 50 images and brief explanations for each has been devoured by millions of consumers looking for a light-hearted read, is the perfect example of a list-gone-viral due to its simplicity and relatability.


We have become highly-selective content connoisseurs with shrinking attention spans due to the alarming amount of content thrown at us daily. It takes more effort today than it did just five years ago to get your posts seen, never mind shared. Viral and require a lot of hard work and you must be eager to stay on the forefront of unique and creative content, but the massive impact they can have on your brand are worth the efforts.