Roger Gallager

Deconstructing the Most Compelling and Interesting Viral Stories

By: Roger Gallager | October 13, 2016 | 
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Deconstructing The Most Compelling Viral Stories OnlineThere are good days when you feel you just created and published the most compelling, creative, and relevant content online.

You had your hopes up so high, only for it to crash down on your face.

What went wrong, you ask?

There’s a multitude of answers to that.

Why some stories go viral and some don’t is beyond choosing the right content keywords, attributing the most credible sources, embedding the most gripping photograph, or publishing in all social networks known to man.

Viral stories online are a combination of a lot of things—audience profiling, emotions, utilization, interest, relevance, and value.

To be successful in content marketing, you have to learn from the most compelling online stories that spread like wildfire.

Deconstructing the Most Compelling Viral Stories

Deconstructing these pieces of content will make you understand that, while there is no magic formula in creating viral stories, there are elements of content that you must consider.

Virality is not something you leave to luck.

And because understanding viral stories is a good first step, let’s look at some successes.

Shock with Facts

There’s a reason why “did you know” tidbits never grow old.

The elements of shock and surprise are something people really love.

People are amazed to find out that Walt Disney, creator of Mickey Mouse, was afraid of mice.

Or that the Beatles, one of the most influential bands of the 20th century, were rejected by recording companies because they sounded “weird.”

One of the most shared content of the London Evening Standard was a piece about how drinking three glasses of champagne could help prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s.

The story was shared nearly one million times.

One of the most viral stories of Huffington Post also played with this element.

It was shared more than two million times.

It was about what causes drug addiction.

The headline The Likely Cause of Addiction has been Discovered, and It’s Not What You Think,” is already a warning that readers are in for a surprise.

It goes on to say that it’s not the chemicals that causes addiction, it is the environment and lack of human connection.

You can see here that content curation is very important to pull off these viral elements.

You must be able to gather new information backed by research.

A provocative title also helps.

Seek to Inspire

The virtual world can get so stressful sometimes.

It ignites heated arguments, spreads incorrect information, and causes some people to be analytical of themselves and the world around them.

Given this situation, take the high road and inspire people.

Images with inspiring text are a very popular form of content these days; it’s like spreading good vibes in a world that has taken a turn for the worse.

Create and publish content that would make people feel like they are doing the world a favor for cheering up the online space.

According to the Harvard Business Review, social sharing is often “connected to feelings of high dominance, where the reader feels in control, such as inspiration or admiration.”

The Buzzfeed story about the “51 of the Most Beautiful Sentences in Literature” was viewed nine million times and was shared more than a million times.

Inspiring videos are also a trend in digital marketing.

The Ad Council promo for “Love Has No Labels” celebrated diversity, acceptance, and love in all forms.

The video has been viewed more than 57 million times.

News agencies are also beginning to understand that bad news isn’t the only type of news that sells.

Remember how a father explained to his toddler what happened in the Paris attacks?

That piece by ABC News, even with subtitles, was truly moving.

Play with Controversy

Remember to proceed with caution.

Controversy is naturally divisive and engages people almost instantly.

When people’s views are challenged, expect your content to fly through the roof.

Donald Trump, for example, being the colorful personality that he is, knows just how to take social media by storm with every controversial Facebook post.

His views on immigrants and refugees engaged more than a million people, with comments of nearly one hundred thousand.

But, while the element controversy is a good viral tool, you must be very careful when you are dealing with biases and sensibilities.

Stories about politics, religion, culture, and gender are all naturally controversial.

Know that publishing such content goes with a certain level of risk.

Before you even hit publish, be prepared with all the scenarios as it could ultimately backfire.

Invest in Value

This involves knowing your audience really well, a very important rule in content marketing.

You have to know what is important to your market, what their interests are, and what is useful to them.

Your content must have value.

Some of the most viral stories are those that deal with common human concerns.

Diet news, work-related problems, money and debts, and stories of love.

These have inherent value to what we call the Generation C: The Connected Consumers, because they deal with actual things that people get to experience every day.

Those two-minute cooking videos and DIY tutorials are also very shareable given the value of utilization.

If it’s something they can use, engaging Gen-C is not a problem.

Sharing “secrets” is also a trend.

Secrets to long life, happy marriage, solo travel, getting a promotion, roasting the juiciest chicken, among others, evoke the value of exclusivity, as if the information is shared to them alone.

In deconstructing compelling viral stories online, you will realize there is no one viral element that will assure success in the evolving content marketing industry.

It is indeed a combination of a lot of things: An effective and well-planned content marketing strategy, sense of credibility, value of information, and triggering emotions.

Learn from the most viral stories online and start constructing your own.

With the right elements, you can win at this game.

image credit: shutterstock

About Roger Gallager


Roger Gallager is a communications specialist with expertise in marketing.  He is also a freelance writer. He has written about a range of topics including saving, money tips, home improvement, and the construction industry. He has been writing articles advising homeowners on how to secure homes, and deal with home-related problems that will inevitably arise.

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