In the movie “Adaptation,” Nicholas Cage said that writing is not about redoing or rehashing, it is a journey into the unknown.

Creating viral content works on a very similar premise. There are no set rules for creating viral content because it is different every time. If there were rules, then the same tricks would work again and again. When “Crazy Frog” went viral, its success prompted things such as “Sweet Chicken,” and yet the Crazy Frog imitations didn’t have the same success because the same ideas simply do not work twice.

Share This or You Will Die in 10 Days

– Try something very new

You have probably seen something similar to this statement on social media, here is a good example about a grandma. It is now better known as a spam post, and it is built to encourage people to share it. It usually involves a post with something inspirational or scary, and then claims the scary thing will get you or a nice thing will happen if you share the post. These posts went ultra viral when they were first introduced via e-mail spam, but these days people ignore them because it is an overused trick.

Influencers May Make a Difference

– It is better to concentrate on mass dissemination

Once you have created your piece of viral content, you may be tempted to share it with influencers because if they share it then your content is more likely to become viral. However, social media influencers have things shared with them all the time and are rarely compelled to re-share.

Instead, you should concentrate on getting your post shared as widely as possible. Start by posting it on every social media platform you can. Get your friends, family and staff members to share it too. If it is an image, then get it listed on Google Images, if it is a video, then get it listed on Google Videos. E-mail it to people in your e-mail and SMS contacts list, tell them you made it, and ask them to share it if they like it.

Do Not Take Up a Cause

– People are used to being manipulated

For example, the Prager University recently created a piece of content it intended to become viral. It was a plea to its users to share a petition. YouTube had restricted 21 of the videos it wanted to upload, and the petition was supposed to change YouTube’s mind. The Prager University channel has had over 12 million hits in the last year, and yet less than 4,000 people signed the petition one week after it was uploaded. If it had gone viral, the first week would have produced hundreds of thousands of signatures.

People are used to social media marketers taking up causes in order to get people to share things, and it simply doesn’t work, it doesn’t make content go viral, and it rarely has the desired effect.

Provoking an Emotional Response Is Pointless

– People are used to being manipulated by that too

A commonly used marketing tactic is to get people to “feel” something so that they share content. The fact is that people are so used to this trick that it completely washes over them. In fact, many people will avoid such messages in the same way they avoid horrible “Crack Baby” or “Donkey Abuse” adverts on the TV. For a slightly better (albeit biased) insight into emotion in advertising, read, “Emotion in Advertising: Pervasive, Yet Misunderstood.”

Remember that the book only deals with emotion, and not with the mechanisms our brains’ use to ignore/blank out unpleasant emotional triggers that, in the world of psychology, are called, “Disassociation,” “Motivated forgetting,” “The Gestalt Theory of Forgetting,” and “Psychogenic amnesia.”

Offer A New Take On Something People See All The Time

– What else is your target audience looking at?

There are some things that people see on the Internet that they are not even aware they saw. People recognize something and yet it is almost recognizable by accident because people were unaware it had an effect on them.

For example, when Fast & Furious 7 came out, there were adverts all over YouTube. The adverts may be skipped after the first five seconds, but in those first five seconds you hear Vin Diesel say, “I live my life at 100 miles per hour.” It prompted ReasonsToGiggle.co.uk to create and share a picture of a turtle on a skateboard with the line, “I live my life at a quarter of an inch per hour.” It went viral because people recognized the reference and the image’s new take on it.

Cheap Tricks Do Not Work

– If you read a trick online, it has already been used thousands of times

Here are a few tricks and secrets that you may read online and/or you may be silly enough to see in an eBook that you bought. These tricks do not make your content viral any more than painting flames on your car makes it go faster.

  • Ask for help from the people that liked the content your viral piece is based on;
  • Add data and statistics;
  • Reference experts in your posts;
  • Mention influencers in your tags;
  • Re-create another viral post to make it look better;
  • Create a list-based piece;
  • Add more detail to something that already exists;
  • Lie and go over the top with your titles;
  • Try to scare people;
  • Create an emotional response;
  • Create anger, awe, or anxiety;
  • Prove you care;
  • Make it surprising or interesting;
  • Keep to X amount of words;
  • Use power words in your post.

There are plenty of other mistakes you can make on social media itself, so here is a website listing 30 pieces of terrible advice about social media.

A Checklist for Viral Content

– Time to tell you what you already know

Once again, there is no rulebook, there is no guideline, there is no structure, and there is no checklist that will guarantee success. The reason this article is full of “Don’ts” instead of “Dos” is because there are plenty of ways to get it wrong and no guarantees that you will get it right. Since you clicked on this article to get a checklist for creating viral content, here it is:

  • Is the content 100 percent original?
  • Is this the first time you have seen anything like what you have just created?
  • Do you actually like it?
  • If an enemy sent it to you, would you still forward it on to other people?
  • Are you visibly and physically excited by your new creation?
  • Will you burst if you do not send it over to your friends right now?


If you are looking for a quick-fix method or a user manual to creating viral content, then you will be looking forever — you will never find one. Big-name brands spend millions on marketing, and even with their resources, they are unable to get content to consistently go viral. The only overriding similarity between one viral piece and the next is that it is something people haven’t seen before.