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The Secrets Behind Content With 10,000+ Shares

The Secrets Behind Content With 10,000+ Shares

As Internet marketers, we’re tasked with the often difficult job of helping ourselves or our clients gain visibility online.

As the years go by, the landscape is becoming increasingly competitive and crowded, and standing out amongst the noise is harder than ever. If you’re not a major publication that automatically gets thousands of shares regardless of what you post, this becomes even harder to do.

With everyone competing to create highly shareable content, the million dollar question is:

““How Do I Create Viral Content?”

Good content is the currency of a website; it buys authority and social capital in the form of links, likes, shares and mentions. Those that do it well are heavily rewarded, and those that don’t will soon be left in the dust. We’ve been hearing the phrase ““Content is King” for years now, but we’re slowly entering an era where ““Remarkable Content is Everything.”

While there isn’t a single answer behind what makes content go viral, I’ve found that it is possible to get a feel for the answer to this question by looking at examples and pulling out their commonalities. All truly viral content has a number of important things in common.

We’re going to look at these common features and how they apply to a few stunning examples…

5 Traits of Shareable Content

1. Idea Stickiness

 A piece of content’s stickiness is the most important factor in whether or not that content becomes popular. Without the ““sticky factor” no amount of paid or manual promotion will turn your content into a big winner.

In all my years in creating viral and shareable content, I’ve never found a better checklist for ““stickiness” than the 6 criteria laid out by Dan and Chip Heath in their book ““Made to Stick” and they are as follows:


““Saying something short is not the mission – sound bites are not the ideal, proverbs are the idea.”

A truly viral piece of content will do more than express any idea simply, it will express a profound idea in a simple way.


““For our ideas to endure, we must generate interest and curiosity.”

Surprise is an emotion that creates alertness and focus. In order to stand out from the glut of mediocre content, you need to be counterintuitive, shocking, or in any other way be able to violate reader’s assumptions or expectations.

The goal should be to engage people’s curiosity bye ““opening gaps” in their knowledge, and then filling those gaps with revelatory knowledge.


““Naturally sticky ideas are full of concrete images because our brains are wired to remember concrete data.”

Our memories rely on clarity and concreteness in order for something to feel solid and memorable. Content that expresses information and ideas in a concrete way encourage sharing by giving the sharer a sense that they are imparting a ““packaged concept.” Ambiguity breeds hesitation and ambivalence, whereas concreteness encourages action.


““Sticky ideas have to carry their own credentials.”

When we share content with friends, family, colleagues, we are vouching for that content. We are saying we find it valuable enough to have others spend their time reading it. We are sharing things we wish had come from our own heads, our own mouths, or our own hearts.


Emotion inspires sharing action by giving us a reason to care. So simply put, in order to get readers to care, we need to make them feel.

In a study done by the University of Pennsylvania, emotion was looked at as a motivating factor for the virality of all the New York Times articles published over a three-month period. Virality was measured by which articles made it to the ““most-emailed list.”

Below are the probability increases of a piece of content making it to the ““most-emailed” list based on the associated categorization of the primary emotion elicited by the content.

In summary:

    1. Positive content is more viral.
    2. Content that evokes high-arousal emotions are more viral, regardless of whether those emotions were positive or negative.
    3. Content that evokes deactivating emotion (i.e. sadness) is actually less likely to be viral.


Emotion, concreteness and simplicity can be difficult to accomplish, but through stories, it becomes infinitely easier. Humans are wired to remember things by self-identifying. Stories can elucidate complex topics and make them simple, encourage emotionality, and give us a concrete picture all at the same time.

““Hearing stories acts as a kind of mental flight simulator, preparing us to respond more quickly and effectively.”

If you can create content that meets these criteria for stickiness, you know you have something with the potential for success. If you’ve done it well enough, it might even be enough to ““go viral” even without the next pieces of the puzzle.

2. Catchy Titles

An effective title makes use of several (or all) of the elements of stickiness in a succinct way that will motivate the reader to explore further.  The single most important thing a title can do though is to get the reader to ask themselves a question in their mind, to make them desire an answer. The second is to make them feel something emotionally when they read the title.

Consider these two titles:

    ““15 Common Grammatical Errors”


    ““15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly”

Both could be used for the same content. They both get the reader to ask the question ““What grammar errors are they talking about? But, only the second one makes the reader ask the question, ““Could I be making a grammatical error that makes me look bad?”

One title creates an emotional motivation in addition to a curiosity motivator, making it much more effective.

3. Tastemaker Influence

In order for viral content to achieve success, it needs to meet most of the criteria already discussed, but unfortunately that isn’t usually all that is needed. The Internet is full of amazing, yet unnoticed, content. In order to get your exceptional content seen, you need to have an initial platform for generating large amounts of visibility quickly.

This is where tastemaker influence comes in. Tastemakers can be understood as individuals who wield a strong influence over many people, and who have the capability to speak to that large number of people in a fast and efficient way.

Tastemakers could include, but are not limited to:

1. Journalists or reporters who have the ability to publish on high profile websites, blogs, or television, radio, etc.

2. Blog owners who control popular blogs, or smaller blogs with motivated and passionate niche readerships.

3. Social media users with large followings. This could include Twitter users with tens of thousands of followers, Facebook or LinkedIn users with massive networks of personal and business contacts, Youtube channel owners with large numbers of subscribers, etc.

To increase the impact of a tastemaker’s sharing or endorsement of your contact, make sure your content is tailored to the likes and interests of their followers. Help the tastemaker improve their relationship with their followers for a win-win outcome.

4. Ease of Sharing

Facilitating a reader’s ability to share content can act as a multiplier for spreading your content. Fortunately there are many ways to increase the ease of sharing of content including many invaluable tools.

Of primary importance are tools that enable social sharing. This includes buttons for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, and StumbleUpon at the very least.

5. Channel Diversity

When creating content, it’s important to consider the content channels that will be ultimately available based on the type of content you are creating. Different types of content will have different efficacies in different channels.

Below is an outline of what you can expect in terms of sharing performance from three common types of content across 6 different channels.

Examples of Widely-Shared Content

Now, let’s see how the above factors have contributed to the viral success of some real-world examples…

Example 1: 15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly

Total Shares:

Links: 243
Facebook Shares/Likes: 12,000+
Tweets: 2,717
Pins: 45,000+
Comments: 349


From a stickiness perspective, this post was excellent. It is a simple, concrete idea, with a very broad appeal (who doesn’t make grammar errors?). The title generates emotional connection (the worry that you may indeed be guilty of looking stupid), as well as opening a question in the reader’s mind that wants answering (what are these errors?).

By utilizing an infographic as the content medium, a wide variety of distribution channels were opened up. The use of an infographic also increased the simplicity of the content and delivered it in a more narrative ““story” type format, making it more relatable and memorable.

Finally, the content was published by Copyblogger.com, a highly influential tastemaker with an engaged audience, giving it the initial visibility to guarantee that the content would not get lost in obscurity, but instead have a chance to spread virally on its own merit.

Example 2: 15 Things You Should Give Up In Order To Be Happy

Total Shares:

Links: 51
Facebook Shares/Likes: 477,000+ (yes, nearly half a million!)
Tweets: 6,000+
Pins: 9,000+
Comments: 107


In terms of stickiness, this post does many things well. Simplicity is key here as the article packages many different concepts under one umbrella of understanding (give these up and be happier.) The article is also distinctly concrete in that it uses formatting (lists) to break down a larger concept into actionable chunks.

The post then extends its credibility by heavily using quotes by individuals famous for their thinking on complex life issues like Lao Tzu, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eckhart Tolle, and more. The article is also intensely positive, relying heavily on the emotions of awe and hope. Additionally, the article is actionable and provides practical value, thus giving the reader a sense that they are helping bring positivity to the lives of others by sharing.

The article does an excellent job of both simplifying the concept, and creating interest and questioning through an emotionally provocative, and counterintuitive title that violates expectations. We generally expect that we have to gain things in order to attain happiness. This breaks convention by telling us there are things we actually need to give up.

Of particular note with this example is that the content succeeded in so many areas of stickiness that it went incredibly viral even without the benefit of a tastemaker’s initial help. Truly, “Remarkable Content is Everything.”


Crafting viral content is part formula, part intuition, and part luck, but by breaking down successes as you discover them, you will become increasingly more intuitive about what will and what won’t resonate with readers. By incorporating the above elements into your content, you will set yourself up with a considerable advantage over your competitors in an increasingly crowded and noisy landscape.

And sometimes it helps to just ask… if you liked this post, share it! 

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  1. Kerry Jones says:

    You know what’s funny? Both of the examples’ titles include “15″. Maybe using the number 15 should be added to this list :) Great post!

    • Chris Tynski says:

      Thanks Kerry! Maybe you are onto something there! Haha :) In all seriousness though, using lists does help with simplicity and concreteness.

    • Roshan says:

      ’15 secrets behind content with 10,000+ shares’ could have increased the possibility of this content going viral. of course numbers are always a great way to grab attention.

  2. Zed shah says:

    An excellent article and awesome examples given. I’m in the middle of relaunching my own blog and am going to focus more on quality rather then quantity

    • Chris Tynski says:

      Thanks Zed. I agree completely. Quality always wins out. That is something we believe very strongly here at BlueGlass.

  3. Remarkable content is killing blogs and destroying writers.

  4. Jason Nelson says:

    Really got a lot out of this article. Some good food for thought. More examples, please :)

    • Chris Tynski says:

      Thanks Jason, I’d love to follow up on this with another post giving additional examples sometime in the near future. Stay tuned!

  5. There’s nothing here to argue with, I have to admit. I’m horrible with titles; heck, it took me 2 1/2 years to come up with a legit title for my first book. lol I also like the story part the best because that’s what I tell people all the time, if you can get people engaged in the story you tell they just might share it with others. Good stuff.

  6. Thanks for some really wonderful tips. I’ve been blogging for 2 years and I’m always trying to find new ways to really get my content in front of people who will value it. The blog has grown so very much, but I want to see truly viral content. I’m in a packed niche but I just know its going to happen.

  7. There is no way to guarantee that something will go viral- but these tips can help improve the quality of your writing for sure. The most important thing to think about is what will resonate with your target audience. As long as it’s helpful, the content is worth creating.

  8. Great work Chris! That was a ton of info and I loved the examples you gave. It is not easy to create great content and make it visible. Looking forward to seeing you at BlueGlass LA.

    • Chris Tynski says:

      Thanks Miguel. I’m looking forward to seeing you at BlueGlass LA as well!

  9. Hi Chris! Very detailed and informative post. Writing quality content is important but even more important and difficult thing is to promote it.

    • Chris Tynski says:

      Definitely Anil, promoting can be hard work. If the content is good though, it makes all the difference. Some of my next posts will be more on the promotions side!

  10. John Brown says:

    A wonderful blog. Lots of good points. The 15 example is brilliant.

  11. Hi.To much to read at once.I printed. I am going to read in my spare time.Thanks for giving a chance to learn something new. A.Motyka

  12. Excellent post, Chris. I must admit, some of my titles are a little dry and to the point. It’s something I have to work on especially on posts from a book. Your examples are really helpful. Thanks for posting.

  13. Yeremi Akpan says:

    Quite a useful read. It is amazing how simple some of these “epic-stuff” principles are to implement when one actually knows what to do. Thanks for the pointer.

  14. jery says:

    not convinced.

    there are tons – and i mean TONS – of the examples you showed posted on twitter everyday. maybe every hour. there are so many “Top 10″ articles crapped out by brainless bloggers every minute that get hardly any shares – and they’re just as catchy as the ones you cited.

    you need to be less results-oriented and think a little harder why some get shared widely. also think about the monkeys on typewriters theory. with billions of blog posts being spewed everyday, it’s bound some will get shared a lot, but it doesn’t mean that imitating them will result in anything for a blogger.

    • Chris Tynski says:

      Hi Jery,
      Thanks for your comment. There certainly is an element of luck in having content go viral. You could create something that meets all of the criteria I mentioned and still have it flop, but the elements I listed are common threads found in most viral content. If your assertion is that viral content arises to a large degree by virtue of luck, I disagree wholeheartedly. If you pair content that meets the criteria I mentioned with a taste-maker who has a built in audience, you can find viral success. This is in fact a tried and true formula that we utilize here at BlueGlass, and as many of our clients can attest, it works.

  15. Gamin says:

    Thanks for this awesome list! I am a new blogger and even though I try to bring quality to my blog posts, it seemed that nobody else cares. I will try out these tips and hopefully get good results.

  16. ashish says:

    social media is very good source for geting traffic on your websites i m really experienced by promoting my web site on these blogs.

  17. Amazing article, just what I needed today! Thanks a lot for the share~

  18. pio dal cin says:

    Interesting article indeed. The only thing that shocked me was not being able to find a Google+ sharing button at the end of your article, with all the other buttons.