Virality is the Holy Grail of digital marketing. When content goes viral, thousands, or even millions of people around the world each become a vehicle for the further spread of your messages. No one can guarantee a piece's virality, but there are five elements that usually come up when content is successfully shared.
People like sharing positive sentiments, like glee or adorableness, more than anything else. It's why some of the most watched videos on Youtube are Keyboard Cat and Charlie Bit My Finger. And it’s why Upworthy and other media that follow in their footsteps like the Washington Post frame headlines in a positive and uplifting manner.
After positivity, content that arouses powerful emotions are the next most often shared. Stories that anger or induce anxiety such as political scandals or the spread of new diseases become viral far more quickly than more moderate or neutral accounts. The prevalence of provocative click-bait articles demonstrates this phenomenon.
Virality often comes with the feeling of being in the know or part of aninner, elite circle. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge made everyone want to be part of the campaign and share it with others so they too would be part of the cause-oriented group.
People share what they remember. Content that's short and sweet is more memorable than a rambling thesis. Lists are also easier to remember because numbers are a handy mnemonic.
Content may have positive or emotional link bait headlines but savvy individuals quickly discard these if they have no worth. Quality content gets shared and will keep its value for far longer, meaning it can still be shared even after the initial furor dials down. Many people still remember old ads or revisit old articles because of their overall good quality and element of nostalgia.