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5 Simple Steps for Creating Viral Social Content

As social media marketers, we’re constantly reaching for that next piece of “viral” content. That next blog post, photo, infographic, Tweet, promotion, video, or offer that gets shared like wildfire across the web.

The problem is that in our quest to create the new hotness, we don’t always do our homework.

In order to make this a more tangible lesson, I’m going to use Simply Measured’s own Twitter account as an example, analyzing Q3 of 2014 as a way to identify some possible viral topics, content types, and most importantly, potential.

Step 1: Define “Viral”

Simple enough, right? What do you consider viral? Is there a number of shares? Hashtag usage? What we consider viral at my company is probably different than what Nike or Coca-Cola consider viral, and that’s okay as long as I understand the difference.

To define “viral,” I’m going to start by looking at my top Tweets throughout the quarter. The sample set I’m looking at includes 3,260 Tweets, of which 2,527 are “normal” Tweets (not Retweets or @Replies), so I have a solid collection to analyze.

Get a Brand Baseline

To get a baseline, look at average engagement per normal Tweet.

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At 9.8 Retweets, @Replies, @Mentions, and Favorites per Tweet, I have an understanding of what “normal” means to my brand, which is essential to understanding what “viral” means.

Identify Top Performers

Next, take a look at the top content from the time period you’re looking at. Zero in on amplification metrics like “Retweets” or “Shares” as these are signals of virality.

Screenshot 2014-10-21 15.57.27While @Replies, Favorites, and URL clicks are certainly important interaction metrics for social marketers to care about, the amplifications are going to help you understand which content is being redistributed by your audience.

In this case, a viral post might be something with more than 50-60 Retweets.

Step 2: Analyze Previous Content

There are a lot of ways to slice and dice previous content. Let’s start with the successes. The posts in the table above all have a few things in common:

  • They’re Twitter-specific
  • They all offer a guide or eBook.

As a content-centric marketing team for a marketing software company, this isn’t surprising. Educational content is our bread and butter. But you may see something different when you conduct a similar analysis on your brand’s account.

Lets look at our “top posts” from a different angle, identifying the content with the highest overall engagement.

Screenshot 2014-10-21 16.26.28

Three of the top five posts include links to our Seahawks case study. This is great insight for our content and social teams, giving us an understanding of content that resonates with our audience.

It’s important to take what you can from your analysis, and not dwell on the specifics. The key to successful measurement is understanding, and when you dwell on the details, you cloud that. Ask yourself what you can learn, learn it, and move on.

Step 3: Get Some Help

Who’s helped take your content to the next level in the past? These users can be the key to virality. Focus on those with a lot of influence and large audiences who can help promote your posts with very little lift.
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In our case above, partnering with leaders in the industry and covering large brand campaigns proved to be successful tactics. This is a great approach when looking to grow your sphere of influence and get your message in front of an audience you wouldn’t normally reach on your own.

Step 4: Focus on Potential Drivers

As networks add real impression data, many marketers choose to cast potential impressions aside, but this is a mistake. Potential impressions are a valuable tool for understanding the impact your content could have.

Looking for trends that cause potential impressions to spike can be useful for finding behavior that is beneficial to replicate. For example, you might do something that drives up potential impressions but doesn’t show an increase in actual impressions, like interacting with an influencer who then shares your content indirectly. This is a key component of virality, and one that may not be reflected in your actual impression data.

Step 5: Keep Testing

You most likely won’t see the same success by doing the exact same thing. There’s a diminishing return with this type of thing as people get used to what you’re sharing. That’s why it’s important to stay innovative and keep testing new tactics. This becomes even more valuable now that you have a baseline for measuring those tests.

Interested in learning more about how some of the top brands in the world are finding success on social? Take a look at our most recent Simply Measured Twitter study, which analyzes the Interbrand Top 100 Global Brands, and the Forbes Fastest Growing Companies in America.
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Kevin Shively

I lead marketing for Simply Measured. Recovering journalist. My team is embarrassed of my hilarious jokes. Firm believer that the best marketers are the best storytellers and the best storytellers use the best data.

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