We look at the best ways to create content that sticks and spreads

In 350 B.C., Aristotle was already thinking about viral content. Does that surprise you? It shouldn’t. Understanding the reasons why some content is more popular than others predates the Internet. It’s a basic wish of writers, and according to Aristotle, comes from three things – ethics, emotions, and logic.

Of course, Buzzfeed and Aristotle’s Rhetoric are worlds apart. So what makes contemporary content get shared? Jonah Berger, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School, worked with another University of Pennsylvania professor, Katherine Milkman, to figure that out.

Analyzing a little less than seven thousand articles in the Times between August 30th and November 30th, 2008, they attempted to figure out which ones ended up on the most-emailed list. According to the New Yorker, they found that positive and exciting articles experienced the most success.

But after nailing the content, how do you ensure that it gets clicked on and shared? Check out our list below for tips and tricks for creating content that sticks.

Use A Catchy Headline

The headline is the first thing that people see in an article and the aspect that helps readers decide if they want to continue reading or not. On social media sites, the headline is often the only thing people can view. If it does not grab their attention, then they won’t click to read more, which will hurt the article’s chances of getting shared. On the other hand, if you write headlines that are not only informative but incite some sort of emotion, they’ll be liked more and shared more. Still, while your headline should be informative, it should not give everything away. It should draw people in while giving them an incentive to keep reading.

Post on comment boards like Reddit

Getting on Reddit’s front page means your article will experience a huge burst in traffic. The site often acts as the birthplace for viral content. It’s a taste-maker of sorts, where popular videos and articles get shared, then reshared, until they rise to the status of “Charlie Bit My Finger.” While the jump in readers may be short-lived, it will undoubtedly increase the popularity of your article and your shares.

Don’t Use The Words “Viral Content”

This may seem obvious, but several writers break this rule. The phrase may cue  negative emotions in the reader, making them less likely to read and share your post.

 Write About Topics That Will Last

Take a cue from Neetzan Zimmerman, who shared some of his secrets with Hubspot. He used to work at Gawker and generated more traffic than the rest of site’s writers combined. Nine out of the ten biggest stories on Gawker in 2013 were written by him.

He suggests creating posts that have longevity. One of his most popular posts, about Farrah Abraham’s sex tape, received almost 11 million views but over 7 months.

 Never Stop Working

Zimmerman works for 12 hours a day and scans a list of around 1,000 websites for ideas. Many of them are relatively unheard of, like Tastefully Offensive and Daily Picks and Flicks. Keep your eyes and ears open for potentially-viral content, and as soon as you hear about something noteworthy, post about it immediately. The sooner the better because with viral content, topics go in and out of vogue very quickly.

Write About People

As we mentioned above, stories that evoke emotions help people empathize with them and will inspire shares. That’s especially true for stories that focus on other people. This makes them inherently relatable. If the story touched someone in any way, they will share it, which will help it go viral.

Learn From Your Mistakes

Even if you post something that gain the traction you expected, don’t be discouraged. Sometimes posts stick and sometimes they don’t, but the most important thing is to learn from their performance. At the end of the day, go over your most-popular and your least-popular stories. Look at traffic data to see which content succeeded and which content failed. The next day, try it all again.

Don’t Forget Timing

If you want your posts to be widely shared, they first have to get some eyes on them. Find the right time of day where most people aren’t working and have time to surf the web. According to Zimmerman, that’s at 9am and 12pm EST. At 9am, East Coasters are getting into the office, turning on their computers, and getting in a little free time before they have to start working.

At 12pm, they head to lunch, while the West Coasters start getting into work. Once again, they have some open minutes to check the web, click on your sites, and share the posts they find interesting. On the flip side, don’t post content during busy periods in people’s days, when they don’t have time for distractions.

Pick The Right Angle

Your readers want to share things about themselves, reading content that they can connect with and reposting when it aligns with their core values. It’s important to understand your audience and find topics that can relate to. So no matter what the subject, if you need to, sensationalize the topic or the headline to produce a specific feeling and speaks to your readers.

Arouse Strong Emotions

As we mentioned above, research has found that content that evokes feelings – whether positive or negative – has a higher likelihood of being shared. If you want content to stick, make it evocative so your audience feels compelled to share it.

Appeal To The Masses

Address a real-world problem experienced by many people in all walks of life. While it may seem more appealing to post controversial posts that ruffle people’s feathers, its better to create content that anyone can enjoy. That means that more people will look at your article and enjoy it, which means that more people will share it.

Make People Laugh

Similarly, humor connects with anyone. It’s a very basic emotion that everyone experiences. At the end of the day, a picture of a cute cat in a box will get shared, regardless of the class, race, or gender of your readers.

Be Clear And Obvious

Make content that’s easy to understand, so it’s shareable. You don’t want to complicate the issue and confuse your readers. If they can’t comprehend a topic, they probably won’t want to talk about it, which, once again, means they won’t share. Instead, go for simplicity.

Aim For Variety

Try everything, see what succeeds, and go from there. You’ll never know what works best for you and your audience until you attempt it.

Longneck and Thunderfoot offer content marketing services and strategies to transform your company blog into an authoritative trade publication. Click to learn more about how to produce great content and prove ROI on your marketing efforts.