As a marketer, it's a question that's been asked of me almost every week for over fifteen years. And while I've had a ton of viral successes in my career, my typical answer has beenâ€¦. "You can't."
I tell people you can't because the truth is that too many people expect that a digital marketer can wave a magic wand over a piece of content (which usually isn't all that compelling) and then suddenly that piece of content is seen by millions of people without any media or pr support. And while it does happen, it doesn't happen as often as one would think.
But this morning I've completely re-thought my answer to this question after watching an absolutely brilliant talk by Sara Critchfield, the Editorial Director of Upworthy, that recently took place at the Personal Democracy Forum.
Sara has the best answer I've ever heard about how not only to make something go viral, but - more importantly - how to make it truly resonate with audiences.
The key element?
Sounds simple, right?
In the video, Sara gives the best advice I've ever heard about how to "breakthrough" on the internet. She tells her writers at Upworthy - "If you're not feeling it, don't write it."
But how many of us do this? Not many. How much of what we read and write on the internet is promotional, but without any emotion. Unfortunately, far too much. But as Sara points out, it's not only emotion that gets people to take action, it's emotion that gets people to care. Plain and simple.
Sara credits Upworthy's success with a simple editorial directive. "We don't let an editorial calendar dictate what we do. There will be big current events, and if someone on our staff feels really passionate about it, then we cover it. And if they aren't, then we don't"
We don't normally think about emotion as data, which is what makes this twelve minute video so vital and important to watch.
In the video Sara gives a truly remarkable example of a video that went viral on Upworthy because of the emotions attached to it by the curator, Adam Mordecai. It's one of the most cogent and liberating arguments I've ever heard for allowing yourself to share (and celebrate) your emotions online.
So if there's one video you watch today, make it be this one. If you're not reading Upworthy every day, you should. And finally, if you're not already "following" Sara Critchfield, you need to. It's clear from this video that she's someone to watch.