My Content Is More Viral Than Your Content
There's no surefire formula for creating viral content. However, there are a few attributes that most viral things have in common. If you follow the recommendations below, the material you create is much more likely to be passed along.
Keep it bite-sized
Viral content should be able to be consumed by the viewer in 30 to 180 seconds. Notice that the unit of measure is seconds, not minutes. One more time: Think in seconds, not minutes. I don't think twice about forwarding along a quick video, set of images, or clever paragraph or two. Even if the receiver didn't appreciate it as much as I did, it didn't waste much of his or her time. The longer your content is, the fewer people will get to the end of it, and the fewer people will share it.
Keep it rough and authentic
Your audience, volunteers and donors aren't looking for a highly manicured product. They want something real. This doesn't mean you shouldn't put a lot of time and thought into your content. You should. But don't be afraid to let the humanity show. Think of reality TV here. People have some bizarre fascination with it.
Use great headlines
Most bloggers call that "linkbait." The headline should be something that a) makes people want to read it and b) is named in a way that they would feel comfortable passing it on. It needs to be compelling and catchy. A recent one that comes to my mind is "What Every Entrepreneur Could Learn From Justin Bieber." I clicked on it, and I shared it. As a general rule of thumb, you should spend as much time coming up with a clever title as you do creating your content.
There's an old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. It is. Use powerful pictures. Hire a good photographer. But keeping with point No. 2, don't stage the pictures. Capture real, candid images.
Along with pictures, lists have a tendency to get views and to get shared. How many blog posts have you read that are titled "6 Ways to Increase Optimism About Fundraising at Your Nonprofit" or "4 Mistakes Every Nonprofit Is Making"? You know what I'm talking about … you read those!
Let people comment freely. Reaction sparks interest. I'm on a mailing list for alumni from my school who were in my major. Someone will share something in an e-mail, and other people will respond. But sometimes an e-mail will come across that's an orphan — no one replies. Then a few days later, after I've forgotten about it, someone does. And then someone else does. And then all of a sudden I'm sick of deleting the e-mails because everyone has something to say. If it weren't for discussion, that e-mail and those ideas would have died alone. Discussion increases the likelihood that someone will pass it along.
This is a trick direct-mail advertisers have known for years. If you send an ad that requires customers to "scratch 'n' win" to see what they get or pull off a sticker and put it somewhere else, response rates increase significantly. There are lots of ways to get users to interact with your site. Have them sign a petition. Let them play a game you've created. Have them take a quick survey. Let them volunteer. The ideas are endless.
Make it shareable
I see it. I like it. I want to pass it along. You need to have buttons right there for me to share it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and e-mail. Make that easy for me. And when you're working with Twitter, be sure to leave 10-12 characters at the end of your template tweet so people can retweet it. Sharing should be easy. FS