Going viral in the modern world isn’t just about capturing the next “Charlie Bit My Finger” or creating a hilarious cat meme. Roughly 27 million pieces of internet content are shared every day, and many of them are coming from businesses realizing the importance of social virality for their business and web presence. Read on to discover why viral content has become the lifeline of the modern website.
Social Media is King
Social media has become a modern juggernaut. Americans spend an average of 37 minutes every day using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social sites, which makes social networking the number one Internet activity in the country, above emailing and browsing. The immense popularity of these sites means it’s more likely your target audience are on Facebook rather than your website.
That’s no reason to get discouraged though. Viral content posted on social media pages can pique the interest of your target audience and lure them to your website. As it’s shared amongst groups of friends with similar interests, more people will stop by your page. Creating website content designed to go viral can help you leverage on the power of social media.
Shared Content is Trusted Content
People don’t trust big business, but they do trust their friends. Research shows social content is now the most trusted for consumers, with 92 percent of users commenting that they have faith in “earned media” (viral content, word-of-mouth) over all other forms.
Because of this, creating sharable viral content can cement your website’s credibility and improve your business reputation. This in turn can lead to increased sales, as people are more likely to purchase from sites they feel positively about.
Social Media Sharing Influences Search Engine Rankings
Traditional articles about improving a site’s search engine ranking stress factors like weaving searchable keywords through pages, regularly updating content, and using metadata and alt tags. However, in 2013 it emerged that social media sharing has become the second most important factor in search engine rankings, just behind quality content. So social virality doesn’t just influence what people see when they log into Facebook or Twitter, but also what appears on Google and other search engines.
This is important to note in light of a recent report from the Pew Research Center, which found that visitors to news sites referred through Facebook were less valuable to a site than those which accessed a site directly or via a search engine referral. People who visit news sites directly, by typing their URL address into their browser window, typically spend close to three times as long on the site and view five to six times the number of pages than those who access a site through Facebook or a search engine.
Search engines remain the most common way that people find websites, so search engine rankings continue to be important. Many people will bookmark the pages they find and return to them directly later, turning them into those valuable browsers the study speaks of.
Social Virality Engages Youth Audience
The Pew Research Center offers a fairly narrow definition of valuable visitors which doesn’t work for all websites, or consider the habits of young people. Young adults prefer to “graze” the news by checking on it from time to time, rather than consuming it regularly as older consumers do. This behavior is indicative of their general browsing habits.
Modern viral specialists like VICE aren’t looking for those valuable visitors defined by The Pew Research Center. They’re just happy to be part of the conversation. VICE and websites like it don’t necessarily seek to build a loyal, returning audience like traditional media outlets. Instead, it seeks to create sharable content “to interest millennials who don’t read or watch established media,” according to one of the site’s biggest advocates, Rupert Murdoch.
That Murdoch saw enough potential in VICE’s revolutionary approach to purchase a five percent stake in the company says a lot for its founder Shane Smith. With his tattoos and love of punk music, Smith doesn’t appear like most media moguls, but his daring may be the key to VICE’s success in the modern media landscape. While he acknowledges the importance of good content, he says engaging consumers with the website through a clear social strategy is much more important.
“Saying ‘I’m going to make something go viral’ is like saying that your business plan is to win the lottery every week,” he told The Telegraph. “You need a social strategy with Facebook and Twitter and Reddit, and an activation strategy with a network like Advice.”
The approach seems to be working. As media outlets focused on their print product struggle, VICE is tipped to make $125 million worth of profit on half a billion dollars in revenue this year.
Viral Content Goes Beyond the Web
The best viral content doesn’t just live its life online. Interesting stories and videos are often picked up by mainstream media outlets like talk shows and television news programs. This additional exposure can expand the interest in your website exponentially.
For example, consider YouTube footage of a snowball fight gone wrong posted by the University of Oregon on Reddit following a snowstorm last December. Within one day, it had 300,000 views. It took another day for it to reach one million. Five days after the clip hit the internet, it had clocked up 4.2 million views. This rapid growth was helped by the clip’s appearance on various news programs around the planet.
The university received “so many requests from media outlets for the video that it was hard to keep up with them all.” However, a spokesperson admitted that it didn’t capitalize on the viral success of this clip as well as it might have, as the video had more than 10 times the views via YouTube than the college website. However, it conceded that if it had initially added links and context to the YouTube description it might have enjoyed greater website exposure. Repeated success with viral content can help businesses learn to maximize the online and offline impact.
Funny videos and cat photos are just one piece of the viral puzzle. Sharable content can give any website a vital lifeline.