Zdravko Cvijetic, or “Z” for short, is the author of the most read article in the history of Medium.com. He’s a marketing genius with a background in education. He knows how to create transformational learning experiences.
I’ve learned a lot watching Z publish and so I asked him what his top 10 strategies are for creating viral content.
Here’s his list.
Virality itself cannot be hacked, but individual elements that support virality can.
Your job is to find those elements, and use them in the most effective way possible to transfer your message.
That's the game you want to play.
Figuring out what works, and what doesn't.
Each article you write is another chance to apply what you have learned.
Once your mindset is on point, the next step is to clarify the message you want your readers to get.
The question you should ask yourself is:
Why should my article exist?
Once you answer this, follow-up with:
If I were to sum it up in a sentence, what would it be?
You are looking for that middle ground in something you are good at, passionate about and other people will find it useful.
Before you engage in research, about the topic of your message, make it a rule, to write down anything you know about the topic.
Not only the information, science, facts.
But stories and examples you have from your life, that can be used here.
In the world where authenticity is in shortage, you need to leave a unique touch.
Now that you have kind of emptied your brain reserve, it's time to do the research.
- The most successful viral articles in your niche, and see what are the universal principles and elements in them (such as word count, headline, subheadline, quotes, structure, sequence, read time, etc.)
- How-to guides from people and companies who already did it, and have their tips and tricks combine - see what can be used for your message (Note: not taking their text, but seeing what did they do, that worked)
Think of yourself as a detective.
Where your job is to find clues that form a pattern and then adapt it to your writing.
5. The Channel
Here you need to find your origin point. Somewhere where the virality can start.
Know that not all channels are made equal, that's why choosing a channel can make you or break you.
If you are in the game of writing articles, Medium is the best choice, but you have to choose the right publication for your niche.
Also keep in mind that each platform, Medium included, has its own set of rules, which can be found and used, together with the research you did to have even more effect.
6. The Attention
The Internet is overflooded with buzz feed type of content; your mission is to create a piece of content that will grab your reader's attention.
The way you do that is by getting the three things right, headline, subheadline, and photograph.
The headline needs to target their interest. The photograph needs to evoke positive or negative emotion. The subheadline need's to make them curious enough to click.
7. The Content Quality
Let's assume that your reader decided to click.
What will keep them reading is how is the article structured, and how engaging (emotion + usefulness) it is.
Even though the structure is something that will influence this decision to keep reading, the content creation comes first.
I follow three simple rules:
- It has to be practical
- It has to be entertaining
- It has to be action driven
Your goal is to If you buy them at the beginning and take them on a roller coaster of emotions, with a lot of useful nuggets for their life.
Know that if you can trigger positive or negative emotion, they will keep reading. And if you tell the story right, they will want the sequel.
8. Content Structure
Even if someone clicks on your article, and it's a high quality one, it doesn't mean they will read it until the end and share.
The average reader does following:
- Reads the headline and sees the picture
- Decides whether or not to Click.
- If he/she does, they skim to see main points, if they find them interesting
- They go back to the introduction and start reading.
As an educator, I approach to writing articles as if I am creating a curriculum for an educational program.
Make sure that you get the sequence of presented information right, and that each point of your article is easy to read.
You can achieve this by writing as if you are talking (explaining something) to a friend.
9. Call To Action
First, don't be afraid to ask people to do something. After all, you did invest time and energy to write an article, and if they enjoyed it, you should ask them to pass it forward.
And people will do that if they find the content useful and entertaining.
Secondly, make sure not to over do it with CTA's. To put 5 things you want them to do.
The more things you add, the less of a chance they will do anything.
Keep it up to two CTA's max: share and sign up.
10. The Wave
If it goes viral, that will be one of the most exciting things that can happen to you.
So make sure to ride the wave, as my friend would say it.
The number of stimuli and opportunities that arise from one single article will be overwhelming.
At this moment your role is rather simple:
- Fix if something breaks
- Engage with readers and current/potential collaborators
Once the "FAME" goes down a bit. Take time to evaluate, and extract lessons.
Adapt it to your future work, and share it with people around you so that they can achieve similar or better results.