[guest post by Torri Myler]

For any company that creates content for the online space, there is always the hope to see that content go viral. The exposure from a piece of content that is shared hundreds and thousands of times can mean a boost in authority, increased market share, new leads and even more sales.

So rather than treat creating content like buying a lottery ticket, where the jackpot is going viral, let’s examine some proven things that viral content tends to have in common. Making sure that your content includes these elements won’t guarantee success, but it will put your content in the strongest position.

We share things that make us look good

The key to making content go viral is enhancing its ‘share-ability’. The idea is to create content that people naturally are motivated to share with their friends and followers on social media. The question, then, is what makes content shareable?

The answer to that question lies in human vanity. Even in a corporate environment, people still want to look good in front of their peers. They are going to share content that makes them look smart, clever, cool, helpful, and knowledgeable. You often see headlines that tout, “21 Ways to Do Something Amazing” and “How to Do This Incredibly Useful Thing” get shared frequently.

Associate your content with a trigger

A trigger, as it relates to content, is something that reminds people to think about another related thing. For example, an umbrella makes you think of rain and peanut butter will make you think of jelly.

If you can associate your content with something else that people naturally think about, then you can capitalize on this trigger effect. Think pop culture, current events, industry-related events like conventions and common recurring issues.

Get your content into the hands of influencers

In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell argued that social epidemics (and viral content could be included in this case) are set into play “by the efforts of a handful of exceptional people” and that “one in 10 Americans tells the other nine how to vote, where to eat, and what to buy.” Gladwell called these people mavens, but essentially they are opinion leaders and influencers.

It stands to reason that if you can identify the thought leaders in your industry, create content that — based on your research of their sharing habits — will likely appeal to them, then if you can get your content in front of them somehow, you will have a much better chance of your content taking off.

When we care, we share

Even with corporate content, messages and ideas that appeal to emotion have a better chance of being shared. It is important to note here that when it comes to sharing content, not all emotion is created the same. Some emotions play better than others.

Jonah Berger wrote about viral emotions in his book Contagious: Why Things Catch On. According to Berger, the number one shareable emotion is awe. As Berger defines it, awe is, “a complex emotion and frequently involves a sense of surprise, unexpectedness, or mystery.”

This is why headlines that contain an element of mystery or surprise in them can do so well.

The least shared of all the emotions is sadness. This may seem to go against conventional journalistic wisdom that states, “if it bleeds, it leads.” After all, media empires make their fortunes on reporting all sorts of sad and unhappy events.

The difference that is critical when it comes to sharing content is that if you can turn that sadness into something that evokes anger or anxiety, then that is much more likely to see your content shared widely.

Torri Myler is a team member at Bank Openingan online resource of bank branches opening and closing times. She combines her experience in content marketing with her passion for writing.

What kind of content do you focus on? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Share with us in the comments or on  Twitter @flow_reader