Also, babies.

Also, babies.

Just kidding! I can’t tell you how to make things go viral. That would be like telling you how to make a timeless work of art. Plenty of people go to art school for years and are never able to create a masterpiece. Some people with a Master’s degree in marketing will never create a video that gets a million views. You can’t predict whether a video will be loved. However, you can use things that most people like to boost your chances.

Here are a few things that people tend to like in their online content:

  • Brevity – Short sentences, short paragraphs, short videos. Kill anything unnecessary.
  • Originality – Come up with something no one’s seen before. Good luck.
  • Humor – Weird humor. Slapstick humor. Humor involving cats.
  • Lists – You like reading this, don’t you?
  • References – Remind people of things they already love.
  • Usefulness – As opposed to a sales pitch. Give them something they can use.
  • Humans – If you have people in your video, they have to act natural.
  • Passion – People can sense when you’re phoning it in.

This is not the end of the list, but I’m ending it here because it could go on forever. You can create your own list with a little research. Watch viral videos and consider what it is that you like about them. Figure out what they have in common. Then you can narrow down your list by considering your customer base and which aspects are most likely to appeal to them and what they consider useful.

If you’re a small business owner and your website and social media accounts don’t benefit from a lot of acclaim, going viral is going to be tougher for you. The key to making something go viral is what marketers call “seeding.” Basically, once one person sees and likes your video/article/picture, they can spread the seed by sharing it with friends. Those friends can then choose to share it with their friends, and the views multiply. You can’t make people like your content, but you can help the seeding process.

Social media is the obvious best resource for spreading anything. You can give your content’s seeding a serious leg up by first building your social networks. This is a long yet simple process. All you really have to do is create quality posts on a regular basis. Post fun and relevant pictures, helpful videos, and useful articles. Interact with fans by asking questions and replying to comments. Likes and followers will come naturally. You can be more active in the process by asking your website visitors, buyers and subscribers to join your various networks, and by following others.

The more significant your following, the more initial seeders you’ll have. There’s still no guarantee that anyone will like your content, but generally the more effort you put into it, the better your chances. Before you even create your content, start with a plan. Take some time to sit down and seriously consider what your content will be, how you’ll present it, and how you’ll advertise it. Create a catchy email for your subscribers. If you can manage it, partnering with another website that’s willing to promote your content will double your exposure. If your content is a blog post, offer to guest blog.

If you do everything right and your content still doesn’t go viral, don’t beat yourself up. Professionals are out there every day trying to make stuff go viral, and even they have trouble. Take it as a learning experience and continue to experiment. Consider ignoring my advice and using someone else’s. You never know what will end up working for your particular business.