Do you remember the “Double Rainbow” video? About three-and-a-half-years ago, a man posted a video to YouTube of two rainbows stretched across the sky, complete with his own awed, over-zealous commentary. It was a simple, homemade video, but it got more than 37 million views, as well as significant mainstream news coverage, and spawned countless memes, parodies, jokes and general commotion all over the Internet. It was a textbook example of a viral video.
It happens all the time, and not just with videos. A random image will suddenly be shared all across the Internet, in a thousand different forms. A blog that makes a particularly interesting point will be plastered on every social media site in existence. So how does it work? How does a piece of content on the Internet take on a life of its own like that, until it’s on the minds and lips of literally millions of people all over the world? Is there a formula? Not exactly. But there are a few steps you can take to help your content along.
Much like an actual virus, content on the Internet spreads by being shared and passed on. The more people share it, the faster it spreads, and the wider its reach becomes. So the first step in creating viral content is to make content that’s worth sharing.
But that’s not the only factor. Plenty of great content languishes in little-used corners of the Internet with very few hits at all. So what else do you need to do? Researchers at Kansas State University recently looked into what makes content go viral. What they found is that the content that catches on often has help—someone in the public eye, with a large following of their own, to pass it on en masse. Not news outlets. Though news coverage can definitely help, for something to be covered by the news, it has to have already risen to prominence on its own.
It makes sense. Celebrity endorsements have been around for more than 100 years. It can work for professional and non-professional videos alike. If you can get someone with an established following to tweet a link to your content, it immediately increases your exposure exponentially and jumpstarts your popularity. If you can get that person to help you with your content—guest star in your next video, write a guest blog post for you, etc.—then that’s even better.
But what if you don’t know any celebrities who can endorse your content? There are tools to help you gain exposure in other ways. Sites like Reddit and Upworthy specialize in taking content from around the web and helping it gain widespread circulation. Make use of these sites as well as your own social media channels to give your content a signal boost.
However, it’s important to realize that, as a content marketer, what you want is not another Double Rainbow. Sure, it was phenomenally popular, but it faded into obscurity just as quickly, and though the creator has made a few videos since then, none have come anywhere near the popularity of the original.
What you want is content that’s consistently popular over time. It’s much better to have 20 videos with 1 million hits each than one video with 20 million hits. As a content marketer, you want to build up your brand, so that everything you post helps to increase your popularity and overall circulation. You don’t just want to be another flash in the pan.