MIke Ellis, Issue 117/02, p14, 01.02.2017
Sharing economy
“Viral content” is hard to define, but we know when we see it: the “runaway-seen-by-everyone” content that passes through social networks on a daily basis.

If you think it’s hard to define, try creating it. A huge part of the equation in making content that stands a chance of becoming viral is, frankly, total luck. As anyone who uses any social site knows, you can post something one day and have a huge avalanche of responses and shares. Post it another day, and absolutely nothing happens – digital tumbleweed. Time of day, day of week, the weather, what’s going on in the news, whether the “right” people see what you’ve posted – it’s a frustrating mix of factors, many of which you have no control over.

So what about museums and viral content? Is it a thing? Should it be a thing? Should we be better at it?

On one hand, we presumably all create (digital) content for it to be seen – the more people we can get to our stuff, the better. So doing what we can to improve what we write and how we write (and how we present it) is crucial. Viral marketing studies talk about several factors that can improve shareability – writing “high arousal”, positive, practical, visual content are among these.

On the other hand, if you take a look at BuzzFeed or similar, you’ll see some fairly cheap, “linkbaity” techniques being employed, many of which are, hopefully, below us as a sector.

In the middle is a sweet spot for content authoring, where we aren’t sacrificing the high-quality content and authority we enjoy, but are doing the right things to plan, author and present content that is more likely to be widely shared among a diverse and interested audience.

Mike Ellis is a director of the digital consultancy Thirty8Digital