StackAdapt Academy

Develop stronger strategies, make smarter decisions.

Can branded content go viral? Absolutely! Content is key.

Jul 09, 2015 / by Ksenia Karaoulchtchikova


Content marketing is a strategy that is being adopted by more and more companies every day. According to Newscred, nine out of ten organizations market with content, which is not at all surprising with 27,000,000 pieces of content shared every day. However, as many as two thirds of all marketers struggle with creating content that will engage their audience (Content Marketing Institute). Marketers often feel that their content does not drive enough traffic, or in other words, it does not go viral.


Why does certain content engage and generate shares, tweets and likes, while other content stays unnoticed? How do you make branded content go viral? I think the answer is to simply produce great content that appeals to a large audience and share it in a non-intrusive way, through native advertising. Here is the easy four-step recipe for an amazing content piece that will skyrocket quality traffic!


Capture attention with catchy titles and visuals. 

When it comes to content, the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” doesn’t work.  In order to make a viewer click through to your content, you have to attract his attention first. The best way to do this is to attach catchy visuals and titles. It makes sense, because 90% of the information that comes to the brain is visual (Newscred). Studies have shown that content with visuals performs much better than plain text. Tweets with images receive 18% more clicks, 89% more favourites and 150% more retweets (Buffer Social). Colourful pictures grab our attention much faster than long texts, which we actually have to read. A short, catchy title is a great way to tell viewers what they will read about, yet keep them intrigued. According to Static Brain, the average human attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish: eight seconds. Our brains love information that is easy to digest. Think Game of Thrones memes and cute puppies.


The visual has to reflect your topic and really demand attention. Don’t just use a generic stock photo. A great example of a visual that is attractive, and that captures and reflects the content is a native ad on A plus sponsored by Happify – a website offering happiness tips. The image below immediately catches a viewer’s eye with its vibrant colours, mesmerising Bounty chocolate bar commercial look-alike background, and a happy, fit, kissing couple. And the title perfectly describes what you will be reading about, yet makes you want to read about it. Score!


Look for strong emotional connection

It is very important that your content causes an emotional connection with the audience. Studies have shown that campaigns with emotional content perform about 50% better than purely rational content (Neuroscience Marketing). The goal of your content is to touch the user in a way that makes them want to share it, thus making it go viral. “There is an emotional imprinting, if you will, on the brand...People are attracted to brands we like just as we’re drawn to people we like,” says Peter Murray, a New York-based consultant and PhD in consumer psychology (Globe and Mail). The most powerful emotions that cause a huge resonance with the audience are: curiosity, amazement, interest, astonishment and uncertainty (CMI). 


One of the best examples of emotional marketing going viral is the Thai Life Insurance commercial. The last time I watched it was about a year ago, and I still start tearing up remembering how sweet and inspiring it was. No wonder it went viral in just a matter of hours.



Keep up with hot topics 

Have you noticed that as soon as a certain topic starts gaining popularity on social media, every single video on YouTube, every post on Facebook and every tweet on Twitter is about that topic? A hot topic can be anything from a controversial picture, to a prevailing issue in politics. Smart marketers can leverage these hot topics to create viral content.


A great example of this is ‘the dress,’ which split the Internet into two camps: gold and white, black and blue. But how did other content creators benefit from this trend? As soon as people started sharing the picture, it raised a question: why does everyone see it in different colours? YouTube channels like AsapScience were quick to upload video-explanations of this phenomenon. The channel gained a large number of subscribers because everyone was searching for an answer to the mystery.


Create content you would want to read

If you want to create content that is shared by hundreds, even thousands of people, then ask yourself: would I want to share this content? Would most of my friends want to share this content? If the answer is yes, then great, publish it. If not, then the next question is: what will appeal to most people? BuzzFeed really got the hang of creating viral content. From 2012 to 2014 BuzzFeed has tripled its monthly unique visitor counts from 4.3 million to 19.3 million. BuzzFeed knows exactly what people want to see. The ads they create are so seamless, you would never guess you were watching an ad. And even if you did, you wouldn’t care, because you are engaged with valuable content.


A great example of this is their recent video-pun about a barista at Starbucks doing a spelling test before getting hired. People relate to this video, because so many people have had their name misspelled at Starbucks. People understand that this content could be paid for by Starbucks, but they don’t feel tricked, because they really are getting interesting content.


Fuel the fire of content virality with native advertising

While it’s important to think of creating an emotional, interesting, hot piece of content, you must also think of channels you will leverage to reach users with this content. When new content hits the web, oftentimes you have a limited opportunity to have the content go viral. To get the critical mass for users exponentially sharing the content, you must reach a large number of users within a certain geographic area or demographic group. While this may be tough to do with the organic reach, paid channels provide an opportunity to target just the right audience that will resonate with your content. This capability is particularly prevalent with programmatic native advertising, as it reaches only users of interest, using a data-driven, real-time bidding approach.


Native advertising emerges as the default paid channel. The non-disruptive nature of content delivery through native advertising generates up to an 82% increase in brand lift. People will actually want to click to your content. According to Inc., 70% of individuals prefer to discover products through native content rather than through traditional advertising.


So, start getting those creative juices flowing; produce awesome content pieces and break the Internet with it, using your secret weapon for content distribution - native advertising.


Request Invite

Subscribe to Our Newsletter