The 7 Qs of Great Viral Content 14 April, 2007 — 14 comments — Stuart Brown
'Viral content' is an awful phrase. It's used by marketers - and generally means material designed to propagate a message or meme, usually with an eye to some commercial gain. But the content itself needn't be a bad thing - and the qualities of great viral content can be used on their own merits. Here are 7 such features of great viral content - and they all begin with Q.
An easy one to begin with: Quality. And not quality as in 'a quality', quality as in 'good'. If you want your content to be shared, you need to make sure it's up to scratch. If it's a video, make sure your production is slick. If it's written content, you'd better spell check it. A lack of professionalism can be endearing in some cases, but usually - quality is important.
If one is good, two is better. If two is better, then the more content you've got to spread then the more likely it is that it will. Certain types of content, such as compendiums and lists, benefit the most from this - a list of 10 amusing facts is good, but one hundred? Even better.
It's no good just having quantity - you also need to let people know exactly what to expect. Quantify your content - if you've got a list of the top 100 websites fit for a certain purpose, then refer to it as a 'Top 100 List'. If you've got quantity, then quantify your content so people know what to expect.
People are drawn to the unusual - it grabs their attention, and that's half the battle. Quirkyness, if done right, can be a great means of getting your stuff to spread. Whether it's just 'different' or a full-blown case of the 'WTF!?', standing out in a crowd is good.
If you can incite questions in the mind of your audience, then you could be onto a winner - debate, controversy and opinion can be a great way of stirring up a 'buzz'. Of course, there's a fine line between a delightfully incisive opinion point and trolling, but that's another matter altogether...
Meaning 'ordinary' or 'common', this might seem a little mundane - out of place - when compared to the other points. But some restraint is advised when considering more outlandish ideas or efforts - if you strive too hard then your audience simply won't 'get it'. This applies to the topics/subjects you cover, too - if they're too obscure, then finding the right audience could be tricky. Not everybody wants to read about the 'Top 10 ways to Optimise SQL in FORTRAN running on OS/2' - specialist content won't fare well virally.
I may be stretching the bounds of the English language here, but 'qismet' is an alternative transliteration of the Arabic word 'kismet' - meaning destiny, or fate. That is to say, there are no silver bullets in viral media - sometimes a sprinkling of luck is what's needed most. Stick to the points above though, and you may just be on the right track.