Let's not waste time, shall we? We went in depth over at KISSmetrics. Today we just want you to pump out something that could put you in front of hundreds of thousands of people within half an hour. And...go.
1. Pick Your Headline
Viral content is:
- Surprising - So mix and match subjects that don't go together
- Interesting - So ask intriguing questions
- Intense - So choose an emotional subject
- Positive - So don't be a downer
- Awe Inspiring - So harness insights from other fields
- Actionable - So give the user something they can use
You want to convey as much of that as possible in your headline. The easiest way to do that is to steal your headline's structure from a magazine cover:
- How Safe is Your [thing of value] from [threat]?
- Get Rid of [recurring problem] Once and for All
- What [world class example] Can Teach Us About [something important]
- Do You Make These 9 [blank] Mistakes?
- How to [blank] Without [something you don't want to do]
- 7 Ways to [accomplish something]
When it comes to the way headlines are worded, there is nothing new under the sun.
Write a series of subtitles. Organize them logically. Every subtitle should be surprising, interesting, intense, positive, or actionable. If it isn't, it probably doesn't need to be there.
Find a link to support each point (if you think it's necessary) and post it under the subtitle. Find the meat of your source and copy it over. Paste it below the subtitle, below the link, and put it in italics (so you know it's not yours).
What's the meat? It should be something that your audience hasn't heard before. It should have an emotional angle, preferably a positive one. It should be something they can act on.
Elaborate on each point. Use these pro tips:
- Write in the active voice. Start the sentence with the noun that's taking an action. "The cow jumped over the moon," is more fun to read than "the moon was jumped over by the cow."
- Order your reader around. They won't mind. (It just sounds better than "You should order your reader around" or "Writers should order their readers around.")
- Tell stories. Stories are about problems, and the people (or inanimate characters) who struggle to solve them.
- Be funny by making nonsensical connections, explaining the familiar in a surprising way, exaggerating, and occasionally (perhaps) toying with uncomfortable subject matter.
- Get outraged, best when mixed with humor.
- Tap into anxieties.
- Build suspense by leaving some questions unanswered (while making sure to answer others along the way).
- Use bullet points or lists.
5. Spice it Up
Go back over what you wrote and delete what you don't need. You'll usually discover entire paragraphs that are mostly rambling.
Replace whole paragraphs with single sentences.
Toss a few jokes in the dry spots. Get rid of the jargon. Inject some personality. Use colorful metaphors. Replace everyday verbs with fun ones.
Publish it somewhere where people will see it. If it doesn't go viral within an hour, it probably won't. That's okay. You probably didn't do anything wrong. Viral always takes luck.
Just do it again tomorrow.
Image credit: James Nash (Circus)