How You Can Go (Accidentally) Viral

We here at Yoke have been holding our breaths for the past six weeks due to our blog post about the tricky world of dating a designer going viral and infecting designer after designer around the world. We reckon the time has come to finally take a deep breath and see what we’ve learned from the rollercoaster ride we’ve been on since Valentine’s Day.

How to go viral by Yoke Design Melbourne

The entire process started pretty unceremoniously; we published the blog post written by our designer-dating studio admin/copywriter Tayla on Yoke’s blog, created a nice image to go with it and went through our usual motions of posting it to our social media channels with the hopes of getting a few readers and maybe even a couple of thumbs up.

What followed took us completely by surprise; the blog post lifted off from our humble Facebook page 480 followers strong and spread like the most aggressive strand of the flu virus you could ever imagine. We’d like to think that in this case the experience for the infected was a bit more pleasant than a week-long sneeze fest though.

After the craze on Facebook, it was Twitter’s turn. And after Twitter came the other popular social media platforms. It has been an interesting ride; at the time of writing this, we’ve garnered over 91,000 likes and shares on Facebook alone and over 3,000 tweets plus several hundred shares on other social media channels.

So far the blog post has received over 441,000 unique page views and has done a world tour, with us showing our type (loving) face in almost every country.

Indeed; after the Australian designer community had shared the ten dating tips with their significant others and the single designers had suddenly realised why they’re single, the crusade continued on to Asia from where the post flew over to the US and finally to Europe. In fact, the only nine countries that we didn’t get traffic from were Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Benin, Western Sahara, Eritrea, Turkmenistan and, somewhat unsurprisingly, North Korea.

We’ve learned a lot in the past few weeks from staring at real-time Google Analytics pretty much 24/7 and reading people’s comments. Besides Yoke’s non-designers learning to never use the word ‘font’ over ‘typeface’ ever again, here are ten key takeaways that we’ve learned about viral content.


How to go viral by Yoke Melbourne

1. It’s not as easy as 1 2 3

First things first – there’s no specific formula for making things viral. Granted, there are infographics and research in existence that tell you what makes good viral content, but even then, most of the content that follows these guidelines still doesn’t guarantee it will go viral.

Why is that? Well, as we learned from our accidental 15 minutes of fame, the Internet is a fickle thing and you just can’t force great content on people.

That being said, you can definitely still make sure you give your piece of content the best chances of going viral by ticking off a few boxes that are common to most pieces of viral content.


How to go viral by Yoke Melbourne

2. Catchy headlines make people pay attention

It’s well-documented that people’s attention-span is short and you only have a few seconds to convince someone to click through to your piece of content. Especially as the Internet is full of interesting content just waiting for those eager eyeballs to come and take a glance, you really need to ensure your blog post is the one people are drawn to first. How do you do that?

Bring in the attention-grabbing headline – it’s concise, it’s descriptive, it’s a promise of something good. Take a look at the headlines on Buzzfeed, for example (yes, Buzzfeed). As the kings of viral content, the site is full of content with click-inducing headlines.

People love top 10 lists of anything, how-tos and controversial titles. Whatever you choose as your headlines, just remember this; no matter how good your blog post, if your title is less than spectacular, you’ve already failed.


How to go viral by Yoke Melbourne

3. Evoking emotions makes people feel engaged

Ever seen something online that made you LOL so hard your colleagues gave you side eye? Chances are you wanted to spread the joy and ended up sharing the laugh-worthy item with your friends.

This is exactly what most, if not all, viral content is doing – it evokes emotion in its readers, which consequently makes them feel more invested in that piece of content.

Blog posts and videos that manage to evoke some of the more active emotions, such as happiness, rage and fear, tend to get shared more than content that makes you feel passive emotions like sadness.

When it comes to humorous content, in particular, an extra component that comes into play is people’s belief that if they shared a funny post with their friends, they end up looking funny in association as well.

Humour is a difficult discipline, but if you decide to go down that route, take all the necessary precautions to make sure that you won’t end up on a list of ‘Top 10 Lamest Viral Campaigns Ever’.


How to go viral by Yoke Melbourne

4. Visuals increase shareability

In the age of social media, everything revolves around images. For example, Facebook posts with images tend to get liked, commented and shared more than text updates and there are already social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest that are solely dedicated to photo content.

Yoke’s blog post initially had only one image, but after we noticed how popular the post became, we decided it best to add some further images to increase the shareability of the piece. Post-image launch, we noticed that the shares on Pinterest and Instagram increased dramatically, as did the traffic from those two channels.


How to go viral by Yoke Melbourne

5. Expose yourself in front of the right audience

Yoke was in the lucky position to have a designer following on all its social media channels at the time of the blog post release. With the great piece of content, all we had to do was put it in front of an audience already interested in designer topics, and the rest was left to our followers.

After witnessing the success on social media, we also contacted design blogs with our blog post in the hopes they’d be interested in writing about it, and many did. This increased our reach even further and allowed more people to find the blog post.

The same applies to any other piece of content; if you know a certain audience would be highly interested in your blog post or video, try to put the content in front of their eyes.


How to go viral by Yoke Melbourne

6. Get the timing right

You’ve probably noticed that supermarkets always have the appropriate products sitting nicely on the shelves way before whatever festive season is coming up next. The same applies for creating viral content – you need to be topical if you want your ‘product’ to ‘sell’.

Our blog post about dating a designer, with its tips about getting along with those hard-to-please Apple geeks, was perfect content for Valentine’s Day. We published the post on the 14th of February on Yoke’s social media channels in the hopes that our Australian followers would find the post worthy.

They did, but the traffic to the blog post didn’t pick up properly until a few days later when it spread to the US. What’s more, the peak day for traffic was the 20th with over 60,000 visitors, which didn’t exactly correspond with our theory about the timing being crucial when releasing new content.

Still, we’d like to think that although the success of your content publication may not be strongly dependent on exact timing, it’s still an aspect you want to factor in when making plans for your next piece of content.


How to go viral by Yoke Melbourne

7. Google Analytics is your friend

Google Analytics and Yoke became BFFs in the past month, with us keeping the real-time stats board open in the background and following the ever-increasing visitor numbers. We especially loved the real-time statistics on the geographic location of our visitors that showed us how the message spread across the world.

Other informative reporting views we found valuable were the channels report to see where people came from and particularly the social media sources report to see which social media channels were the biggest traffic drivers.

The insights offered by these reports can help improve the next blog posts and shed light on which channels we should concentrate on in the future.


How to go viral by Yoke Melbourne

8. Milk it while you can

The response to our blog post was overwhelming to say the least. We loved all the attention and love we received from people, but it pained us that we didn’t have the time to respond to every follower and comment that was sent to us.

Don’t let yourself think that that’s the way it will be forever after going viral though. We’ve now pretty much returned to normal and are happy to be responding to comments and thanking our new followers again the way we used to.

Viral content will not be viral forever and the traffic surge will be over sooner than you thought possible. In our case it lasted for about 3 weeks, but we sought to extend the lifecycle by supplying extra images and contacting blogs as soon as we realised it was a hit.

In any case, if you notice your blog post getting more attention than normal, it’s a good idea to try to promote the post a bit more than usual instead of just letting it sit. Remember to enjoy the ride too.


How to go viral by Yoke Melbourne

9. Not everyone will love you

Realising this hurts – even though your piece of content has gone viral and most people love it, there’s always that one grouch (or two) that will give you ego-crushing feedback.

“Why won’t they love me? What have I ever done to them?” you might ask yourself. The trick is to not take it personally. There will always be people out there who will not like your content and there’s simply nothing you can do about it.

We suggest you won’t get provoked or try to censor their comments unless they’re blatantly insulting or trolling. We found that a few negative comments actually encouraged conversation, which made the blog post all the more engaging for people.


How to go viral by Yoke Melbourne

10. Viral content is not a miracle cure

This is perhaps one of the most important lessons we learned while our blog post was touring the globe – viral content is not the Holy Grail of marketing it has been made out to be by some.

We often get too focused on trying to make things go viral that we forget what the point is. Are we after enhanced brand awareness? Increased sales? Boost in the number of social media followers? You should always have a goal you want to achieve with your content.

In most cases going viral is definitely good for your search engine optimisation, with the other benefits perhaps being a bit more indirect, depending on your content and audience; you might get some free publicity, receive a few interesting partnership opportunities or experience a surge of advertising revenue if you have ads on your website.

In our case, our social media following more than doubled and we received job opportunity enquiries from all over the world. We also learned valuable lessons from the experience, which we’re sure to employ the next time around to ensure our next viral blog post won’t take us by surprise.