Through my many years working with online content, I came up with a simple flowchart to guide my thoughts on creating viral stories.
Can viral stories be manufactured? Can they be produced in a streamlined fashion like part of a factory chain?
While I do not believe there is a 100% surefire way to get a story to go viral, there is a process that one can follow to ensure a higher success rate.
I have shared this flowchart with various content teams I’ve led, with some evidential success. The knowledge can be passed on and there is repeatability in the ability to create viral stories.
Here is a condensed version of the flowchart with just four simple steps:
1. Output must be greater than or equal to input.
This is the most important guiding principle. Always make sure the effort you put in yields greater or, at least, equal results.
I first devised this principle when I was publishing on Alvinology.com as a one-man blog team. The site now has a team of writers, but resources were scarce then. I do not have much time to write, as I have to juggle it with my day job and other commitments.
As such, if I were to spend more than two hours writing an article, it must have an estimated 50% or more chance of going viral. If the article takes less than 30 minutes to write, I can accept that the chance of it going viral may be a long shot.
With the same three-hour time slot, I either publish six easy-to-write longshot articles, or one well-researched and exclusive piece with a higher chance of going viral.
If you follow this guiding principle, you will be able to produce at least one or two viral stories each month, while economising on the time spent.
2. Is this an exclusive piece? If not, how can you make it unique?
If your story is exclusive, the chance of it going viral is much higher as you will be the only information source available. If not, try to think of alternative angles to make your story different and stand out from the crowd.
For instance, if there is a terror attack in your area, if everyone is writing about the profile of the terrorist, why not you write about the best friend of the terrorist to produce an exclusive piece?
3. Who can help me share and amplify this story?
Great writing is just one part of the process of creating a viral story. After you write an exclusive or unique article, you need to get as many people as you can to see it.
Build up multiple amplification channels. These could range from social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Weibo to even more traditional forms like PR pitches to mainstream media.
Think about who this story would appeal to. For instance, if I have an exclusive piece about a celebrity scandal, I will reach out to the celebrity’s fan clubs, entertainment journalists, and other relevant parties to share the story, beyond just tapping on my owned amplification channels.
4. Plan for the next viral story.
If one of the stories you produced goes viral and reaches hundreds of thousands or even millions of views, congratulations! You just struck gold!
However, this is not the end, but just the beginning.
Now, you should capitalise on that one viral story to create many other parallel viral stories.
Riding on the wave of that one viral story, plan and create more related stories, similar to the first story. Ensure you hyperlink all the stories so they direct readers back to the other stories.
In this way, instead of getting just one pageview for one story, you are able to expand it into multiple pageviews, if you plan ahead.
That’s it! Four simple steps.