Going viral: 6 mistakes content marketers make

The very virtues that make you a dependable, widely read daily or weekly blogger may be habits that disable you as a creator of viral content, says this writer.

Have you wondered why you’ve never created viral content?

It could be that habits you’ve developed in creating ordinary content prevent you from creating it. Some might simply be bad habits. Other habits that work well enough for daily posts can block you from writing content fit to spread far and wide.

Here are six habits you need to change (or forget) to go viral:

1. Writing to please everybody.

Viral content is not synonymous with well-received content. It’s simply content that evokes reactions and moves people to share it.

If the reaction of your readers ranges from “that’s nice” to “somewhat interesting” you aren’t viral. People who create viral content know you can’t always be safe. You have to have strong opinions, and be willing to express them.

The point of “going viral” is to earn shares and links and to create conversation. This works just as well if people engage you because they disagree with you as it does if people like your opinions.

2. Focusing on interest rather than usefulness.

Say you write a food blog. You’re considering two topics. The first is a post on ethnic cuisines that have come to your city in the last five years. The second is a post teaching your readers how to do perfect roast chicken with five minutes of prep.

Both posts are interesting. It would be a sin to deny your audience either one. If you focus only on going viral, the how to post wins every time. Posts that give information people can apply are most likely to be shared. They are also the most likely to draw comments and questions.

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3. Leaving out emotional appeal.

The next time you write a post, focus on one thing. When choosing your topic ask yourself which strong emotions you are trying to evoke.

Strong emotions produce excitement, and make people want to act. Anger, excitement, awe, enthusiasm and fear of loss are powerful emotions. Contentment and sadness are weaker emotions. Posts that fire people up are more likely to go viral.

4. Forgetting to give people a reason to share.

As you scroll down your Facebook newsfeed, you decide about each post. You like, share or scroll past it.

Why is that? We associate different things with each decision. If we’re marginally interested, we might read it, but we won’t act. If we enjoy the post, we might click the “like” button.

Most people don’t share a post unless they find it compelling. Sharing is either an endorsement or a strong stand against. If you want your content to go viral, you have to create content that your audience members want to share. Content that spurs them to share their thoughts and opinions is one of the best ways to accomplish this.

5. Not getting approval from your core audience or advocates.

A viral post isn’t an accident. Content goes viral because a person consciously tries to make it happen.

You must get buy-in from your core audience—or, even better, people of influence. If you have content that might go viral, post it on all your social media feeds and promote it.

Don’t stop there. Send your post to your staff, friends and family members and ask them to boost it. If you have a relationship with influential industry leaders, ask them to read it. They might be willing to provide a quote you can use to promote the content or to share your content with their followers.

6. Not casting a wide distribution net.

If your posts don’t go viral, you might not be doing enough to distribute that content.

You should share your content with your audience members, but you can do more. For example, you produced a great video and uploaded it to YouTube—but did you post it to Vimeo or Howcast?

How many times did you promote it on social media? You never know when or where content will gain traction. You must distribute and promote it wherever you can.

Remember: Viral content that helps your brand doesn’t just happen. It takes planning and thought to make posts go viral.

Norman Arvidsson is an independent author and blogger who writes on topics including startups, small business and marketing. Connect with him on LinkedIn here .

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