November 5, 2011; Source: Social Times | “Viral content relies on two things. The content itself is worthy of being shared [and] the content is shared widely enough to reap the benefits of the networks they are shared on.”

So what exactly makes online content go viral? ProBlogger has created an infographic that breaks down what kind of content goes viral and what you can do to encourage its doing so. By analyzing what makes something spread virally, organizations can choose what text and visuals to use for their content to reach a wide audience and truly get the attention it deserves.

The four types of viral content ProBlogger monitored was:

  • Articles and blog posts
  • Interactive content (including games, quizzes, and widgets)
  • Video/audio content (including vlogs and podcasts)
  • Infographics

You can look at the full extent of the infographic here, but one of the focal points of the graphic was a list providing the top ten reasons we share:

  1. It is absolutely hilarious. We all need breaks from the seriousness of the daily grind, and something that makes us and others laugh is a natural mood elevator.

  2. It is incredible or unbelievable. When something just makes your jaw drop, you can’t resist sharing it with friends and family to get a similar reaction.

  3. It is deeply emotional. Content that touches us emotionally, either negatively or positively, is a natural thing to share because we want to connect with others over the experience, even if it’s just via the Internet.

  4. It agrees with our worldview. Everyone has an opinion these days, and when we find content that backs up our values and reinforces our worldview, it’s only logical that we want to share that with other like-minded people.

  5. It makes us stop and think. When content makes us stop dead in our tracks and ponder the big questions in life, we often want to share that with others so that they, too, can pause and look at the big picture once in a while.

  6. It isn’t covered by mainstream media. Provocative or relevant news stories that slip through the cracks of mainstream media and wind up elsewhere online can draw a huge audience.

  7. It will make someone smile. We all need regular reminders to look at the lighter side of life, so content that’s funny, silly or cute serves that simple purpose.

  8. It is dramatic. Our culture loves a good drama, and something with high levels of drama is certainly going to be shared by people.

  9. It is embarrassing. It’s the story of the proverbial train-wreck: While something is difficult to watch, most people can’t look away. Content that exploits people’s most cringe-worthy moments is often guilty pleasure.

  10. It is provocative. Most of us can’t resist adding a little spice to our lives with some content that is risqué . . . but not so much that it can’t be openly shared.

The infographic also contains plenty of tips to help content spread virally—like encouraging sharing in multiple ways or asking a well-known person with great networks to tweet or blog on the topic in question. It also points to sites like Digg, Reddit, Stumbleupon, and Delicious as extraordinarily effective launching pads. We encourage you to take a look, and . . .

We’d love to hear your examples of nonprofits that have generated viral content.— Aine Creedon