Content Promotion and Distribution

Promoting Content on Social Media
Content Marketing Tools

Viral Content

What Is Viral Content?

Viral content is online content that achieves a high level of awareness due to shares and exposure on social media networks, news websites, aggregators, email newsletters, and search engines.

Why Is Viral Content Important?

A single piece of viral content can generate significant amounts of brand awareness and traffic to your website.

Viral content can generate brand awareness

And because most of the traffic comes from social shares, viral content is relatively cheap compared to paid ads.

But there’s a catch:

Viral content is tough to pull off.

In fact, our content marketing study found that a small percentage of content (called “Power Posts”) drive most social sharing.

Top subset of "power posts"

In other words: Most content gets virtually zero shares. But a few top performers tend to dominate.

So, how do you get your content to go viral? Check out these best practices.

Best Practices

Focus On Trending Topics

When it comes to viral content, your topic is KEY.

Specifically, you want to create your content around a topic that’s blowing up. That way, you can ride the wave.

And the best way to find growing topics? Google Trends.

All you need to do is type in the topic you want to write about.

Google Trends

If interest in that topic is growing, that’s a good sign.

Google Trends – Interest over time

If not, you probably want to go with a different topic.

Write Viral Headlines

When someone sees your content getting shared on X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, and other social sites, your title is what ultimately pushes them to click.

So, while your content itself is super important, your title can make or break how your post does.

Headlines with numbers can grab readers’ attention and persuade them to click.

So, whenever it makes sense, use a specific number in your title. Like “9 Data-Backed Ways to Improve Your Content” and “14 Chew Toys Your Dog
Can’t Destroy.”

HubSpot reports that adding brackets to your headlines can also lead to more clicks and shares.

Click through rate

Brackets give people a “sneak preview” of your post.

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These headlines leverage brackets to offer extra information or highlight value, making them more compelling for readers.

Is your post an infographic? A case study? A video?

Brackets let people know… before they click.

For example, here’s the headline from one of my posts.

Backlinko – Brackets in headline

The text in the brackets lets readers know that my post is an actionable step-by-step guide.

Create Captivating Introductions

If you want to create a viral post, it’s easy to overlook your introduction.

That said, people only read about 28% of a blog post. So, if you want your post to go viral, you need to hook readers fast.

This means your intro should be compelling and interesting.

Besides that, you might also want to try using short sentences.

Dr. John Morkes found that short sentences boosted content readability by 58%.

Content readability

Here’s an example of an intro that uses short sentences.

Video marketing guide post – Intro

Use Colorful Visuals

Images make your content much more compelling.

(Especially compared to a blog post that’s 100% text.)

Plus, cool-looking visuals will end up in tweets and Facebook posts. Which can help your content go viral.

Visual in tweet

There’s evidence to back this up.

Xerox found that colorful visuals made people 80% more likely to read a document.

Likelihood of reading

What if colorful images don’t make sense for your post?

No worries. Just make sure to include something visual.

Venngage found that original infographics and illustrations are the best-performing visuals. But stock photos, graphs, and charts aren’t far behind.

Experiment With Long-Form Content

In a study of virality, Professor Dr. Jonah Berger found that longer content was 76.8% more likely to go viral compared to short content.

Likelihood of going viral

There’s no magical length that will make your content go viral. But at least according to this research, longer content can increase your odds.

Set a Featured Image

Social shares with images get 35% more retweets on X. And Facebook says posts with visuals tend to receive more likes, shares, and comments.

This is why a featured Image can help you create viral content.

A featured Image is an image that automatically appears when people share your content on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media websites.

For example, we set this as the featured image for this piece of content.

Sitemap Generator Tools – Featured image

And whenever someone shares it, that image shows up underneath the post.

Tweet with Backlinko featured image

Place Share Buttons Above The Fold

A Google study found that elements above the fold are seen by 58% more people than elements that are further down the page.


This is why you want to place your social sharing buttons high up on your page.

Here’s an example:

Page speed stats post – Social shares

Publish Emotionally-Charged Content

A study published in the Journal of Marketing Research found content that elicits the emotions “awe”, “surprise” or “anger” was 28% more likely to go viral. This applies to text content (like a blog post). But also works if your goal is to create a viral video.

The format isn’t super important.

The important thing is that your content elicits an emotional response. That’s one of the keys to creating shareable content.

Promote To Influencers

Sure, you should write content for your target audience.

That’s content marketing 101.

But don’t forget to mention influential bloggers in your post (and let them know about it).

A Columbia University study found that for your content to go viral, influencer shares were ”critical”. That’s because these folks will share your content on social networks like Facebook, X and YouTube, increasing the odds that you go viral.

Publish Practical Content

Dr. Jonah Berger found that highly-practical articles are 34% more likely to go viral.

Likelihood to go viral

So, if you don’t want to create controversial or emotionally charged content, consider practical content, like recipes and how-to guides.

When done well, practical content has a decent chance of going viral, too.

For example, some time ago, we published a guide to writing a blog post.

Backlinko – Write a blog post

There wasn’t anything super controversial or emotional in the guide. But it was super practical.

And all of the actionable tips in our guide helped it rack up over 6,000 shares.

Focus On List Posts and Why Posts

Are there types of content that get shared more often?


List posts and why posts get more shares than videos, infographics, and how-to posts.

List Posts And Why Posts Get A High Level Of Shares

The downside is that these content formats don’t get as many backlinks. So they’re great for viral content campaigns but not for SEO.

Focus on Content Quality over Virality

When it comes down to it, no one can predict if content will go viral. But there are steps you can take to help your articles get more exposure.

Like focusing on trending topics and writing knockout headlines.

Even more important?

Creating high-quality content that aligns with your target audience’s preferences and pain points. And their search intent.

Read our Content Writing 101 guide to learn how to create content that resonates with readers. And gets more clicks, shares, and conversions.

Learn More

The Definitive Guide to Viral Marketing: Learn how to create products, videos, and content that goes viral.

We Analyzed 912 Million Blog Posts. Here’s What We Learned About Content Marketing: This study attempts to answer the question, “How do I create viral content?”

My Video Went Viral. Here’s Why: A super in-depth case study of how a YouTuber created a video that went viral and racked up 37 million views.

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