Top 6 Ideas for Incredible Viral Content

As many of us alluded to earlier this month at SMX Social Media, viral content is king. Viral content is what people look for. Viral content is what people bookmark. Viral content is what people talk about. Viral content can spark memes. Viral content is the foundation for linkbait. Indeed, viral content is a wonderful concept and especially important when you’re looking for traffic or attention. But if you’ve never traversed along the road to viral content, where can you get started? What is makes good viral content? I’ve talked briefly about great lists. I’ve talked about videos. I’ve talked about pictures. Now I’m going to talk a bit more about six solid foundations upon which you can build viral content and I’ll illustrate how they’re used in today’s social media.

The Motherload of Lists

Let’s face it. People like lists. Lists win for a variety of reasons: they’re easily digestible, they’re typically short, and they contain a lot of good information in one single article. Lists also take a great deal of research, and the return is typically a resource that people will turn to time and time again.

Here are some example lists that totally rock:

You don’t have to go all out and make a list with hundreds of items, since the larger lists, while bookmark favorites, are typically harder to consume (and may never even be looked at if too extensive). But that doesn’t mean you should feel like the task is daunting when comparing your list with 11 items next to a list with 101+. (Remember, this list contains 6 items!) In the list case, all four aforementioned lists are winners — just put a good deal into your research and you’ll do just fine.

The Quiz

The quiz is another viral tool that brings a bit more fun into everyday web browsing. Quiz yourself on relationships or just random trivia and see how well you score. Share your results with friends, in your blogs, or on any site that accepts HTML. Some examples follow:

What are Your Chances of Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse?

Zombie Apocalypse

Search Engine Smackdown

Search Engine Smackdown

Which Transformer Are You?

Which Transformer Are You?

These quizzes are addictive, fun, and by nature are meant to be shared.

If you don’t have a graphic designer or Flash developer in the house, you can still work on basic quizzes such as this life expectancy calculator and a quiz that determines whether you’re in an abusive relationship.

Interactive Video

Another great way to promote viral content takes a little bit of Flash (usually) and some creativity. Customized videos work especially well.

Bob Dylan’s Album Announcement

Bob Dylan Viral Video

Gillette Manquarium

Manquarium with Neil Patel

(By the way, in case you couldn’t tell, that is Neil Patel, not my husband. Funny, though, picturing the princess on that studly body, right?)


Images work in all shapes and sizes. You can do a photo essays or present a gallery of images that you or your graphic designers have Photoshopped–and you can feature tutorials on how to make the best out of your photography/graphic design skills. The possibilities are endless, but the creative images take the cake.

Tutorial: 21 Ways to Shoot Better Photographs

21 Ways to Shoot Better Photographs

A Photo Essay of a Heroin Addict Whose Life Suddenly has a Tragic Ending

Heroin Addict

A Mother’s Journey with her Son as He Loses His Battle with Cancer (1/2/3/4)

A Mother's Journey

On the other hand, perk up with some humorous images, such as this one:

Wallpapers are a big favorite on social sites, particularly wallpapers that work for high-resolution displays or dual monitors. Don’t forget about those users.

There’s more where that came from. We’re computer aficionados at heart; we like things to make our desktops pretty.


Users also like things that make their lives easier. Whether it is a tool that finds domains for you or a utility that makes web surfing just a bit easier, remember, tools were created out of a need. I’ve already stated that I love apps built on the Digg API, and anyone with some programing know-how can build an excellent web-based or standalone utility. Examples include:

Instant Domain Search (with its AJAX glory)

Instant Domain Search

Website Monitoring Tests

Dot Com Monitor Website Test

Think about it this way: MyBlogLog has a widget, statistics, and a community. COLOURlovers has color palettes and trends.

Teach Your Users How to Do Something

No matter what is out there, people generally want to learn how to do it. How do you fold that shirt so neatly? How do you shuffle poker chips like a pro? Teach us.

How-To viral pieces work in two flavors: the detailed writeup and the video tutorial. Here is an example of each:

As you can tell, both of those instructional videos work quite well. The T-shirt folding trick has been remade hundreds of times and has been reproduced thousands of times on a variety of video sites.

On the other hand, there are step-by-step articles that help you get the most out of anything whether on the computer or in the household. A few examples are below:

The How-To possibilities are also literally endless since everyone wants to know how to do something (or at least wants an easy way to look it up if they can’t learn right away!)


So there you have it: six viral ideas that you can get started with today. Viral content takes research, time, and dedication, but on the plus side, your users will likely be talking about your masterpieces for months (or years) to come. What’s stopping you from taking the plunge?


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