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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104 replies on “Top 6 Ideas for Incredible Viral Content”
  1. Awesome, awesome, awesome summary! Most marketers forget about providing a value to their audience. You just did a great job of highlighting some of the most effective methods. Tamar rocks.

  2. says: Derek

    This is a great list of ideas coupled with specific examples that other people should certainly take note of and review. I definitely appreciate your time putting this all together! (bookmarked and saved)

  3. says: Jason Falls

    Hey … that fishing for Sphinn jab was at me, wasn’t it?

    Great post, thorough and useful list. Yet again why you are the queen of all bloggy, posty, social media-y things.

    I bow.

  4. says: Jeff

    Yeah. but there’s totally nothing new in this article here, “What *blank* are you quizzes have been around for years. The main appeal of most things that take off on the internet is that they were made because someone wanted to make them, not because some movie studio is trying to make a few extra dollars by trying to take advantage of cheap advertising.

  5. Jeff, did you read Tamar’s article? It looks like you skimmed the article and reacted to the Zombie Apocalypse and Transformers quizzes, neither of which were produced for movie studios. They were timely and on trend, but didn’t benefit studios except for minor brand recognition, which doesn’t mean much since the target market was already flooded with fan boys and girls.

    As for the main appeal of viral content, a component is certainly an individual having the creativity, time and resources to develop it, but ultimately it’s the connection it makes with readers/viewers. The “if you build it they will come” philosophy only goes so far.

  6. says: bakkouz

    I spent at least 45 minutes on instant domain search to look for 3 letter domain names and i couldn’t find any. they’re all gone 😐

  7. says: Shannon B.

    I enjoyed this summary muchly, great tips to get someone started on the road to generating viral content. 😀

  8. says: sophie_k

    Theres such a lot to learn. Ive been blogging for, wait for it, not even one week… I could do with some traffic!

    Thanks very much, I’ll be giving your suggestions a go and Im sure Im going to learn a lot.

  9. says: Interwebhunt

    That in and of itself is a great list posting! Thanks for the great ideas and resources. Another fun idea is to try a contest or two with a prize people really want.

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  11. says: John Wilson

    Great Ideas about Viral marketing, I have been studying about the ideas regarding Viral and Content marketing, But it’s really great , Thank you for educating people.

  12. says: Myrna

    Tamar, thanks for the list. I’ve a new blog with WordPress and I’m trying to learn (by the seat of my pants) how to do things on my own. Someone got me started but I’m flying on my own now. You confirmed what I thought about video content. I’ve been thinking of putting video content on my site as I personally am drawn to it when I visit other sites. Your example was a “How to” but I think most interesting videos draw people in. I’m a sucker for the play button!
    Glad I found you – will enjoy reading your blog!

  13. says: venus

    actually i want to promote a website on the internet arena. I will be glad if you assist me in this and suggest me certain fruitful ways to promote the website. It will be my pleasure if experts will come and recommend me the methods.

  14. says: Graeme

    A type of viral content that seems to bring some traffic (if only small amounts) over a longer time period is downloadable content with links back to your site (perhaps a short article in PDF format on photography hints)

  15. says: Tinzley

    Tamar, this is great information. I stumbled across your site and was like, wow! Because I happen to be reading your book right now. I work with the Social Network Team at my job, so your advice comes in handy. Question: The examples you gave on this page as ideas, can people use those or are we to create and come up with our own areas of interests for our audience? Example: Can I use the ” Japanese way od folding a T-Shirt?” or must I come up with something I’ve located?

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  17. says: lily

    sadness, a lot of the pictures and videos are broken. ;( i can’t fold a fitted sheet, see humorous images or fold a shirt. ;(

  18. says: Bernd Strømstad

    I wonder if social media would help to go viral also? I mean if social portals can gain so much power from its links comparing to other sources. Lets think serious – social media I mean Facebook.. This is just one domain. Would it help to get better rankings in competitive keywords? Thanks for this post from the billig seo company.

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