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As soon as you receive a link to a new piece of viral content, I know what goes through your head: “I could have thought of that.” And it's true – information goes viral when it more vividly depicts or proves something that many have suspected but never proven.
But how do you think up those perfect pieces of content before someone else comes up with the idea? Here are some techniques to get you started creating the next great blog post, infographic, or youTube video.
Be Useful or Entertaining
People like finding and passing on information that is either useful, enlightening, or entertaining. Start thinking about what kind of content your audience would find useful: a free report or tool? How could you enlighten them about something they might have assumed or misunderstood without realizing it? What kinds of things would they see as being entertaining? Once you know who your audience is and what kind of response you are trying to elicit, you can start coming up with ideas for the content.
The first step in brainstorming is always the storm. Start writing down anything you can think of that people are interested and that you could analyze further. Don't worry about how random your list might look, and don't take anything out. No criticism – just writing!
Don't forget to let this process happen naturally, too. Carry a notebook with you, or create a text message draft when you have a great idea. Let yourself be inspired by anything you notice, or questions you want answered. After all, if you're wondering, chances are that someone else is, too.
Sort It Out
Start noticing patterns in what you have written down. What might resonate with your audience? What would bring in the types of people you want to attract to your site? Keep in mind a specific type of reader to create an audience that will persist and grow, instead of a blog that is aimless and wandering.
Pay attention to which of your ideas are trendy today but might disappear tomorrow. Keep the evergreen ideas somewhere to spark more ideas when you are running out, and use the trendy ideas before they go out of style. And if it's already too late, don't worry about letting some of your ideas go to waste – it's better than wasting even more time trying to create something that will not go viral anyway.
One of the things infographics are best at is putting things in perspective. Start comparing the number of virtual users to a physical quantity like the population of Iran. Show how much bigger $2 billion is than $20 million. Graphics help numbers retain their scale, even when the numbers are so huge our brains don't intuitively understand.
When you stumble on surprising statistics, collect them and come up with related statistics that you are curious about. Putting intriguing, related statistics together is a great foundation for a piece of linkbait content.
Bring others in when you're trying to generate ideas. You can do the original brainstorming session with a group, or you can ask for a second opinion when sorting through ideas. Let other people catch the enthusiasm, and add more ideas or recommendations to the original seed.
Know the Formulas
Once you know what you are going to be giving information about, you need to decide what form it will take. Will you make:
- an infographic?
- a top ten post?
- a collection of photos?
- a youTube video?
- a podcast?
- a SlideShare slideshow?
- an ebook?
- a tool?
- a quiz?
- something else completely?
You shouldn't just follow the crowd, but you should observe trends online, especially in your niche. Infographics are fascinating and quick to be shared in some spheres, and overused in others.
A piece of linkbait itself, this Linkbait Generator is nonetheless funny – and, who knows, it might even spark an idea!
Tell People It's Viral
Your work needs to speak for itself, and encourage anyone who is reading to pass it on. Do you include social buttons, embed code, and an encouragement to pass it on? You don't need to be sleazy to let someone know that you are proud of your own work, and ask for their help if they enjoyed your work, too. And if people found it useful or entertaining, chances are they will be looking for a convenient way to share it anyway.
By the way, here are the Retweet and Facebook Like buttons! You know what to do.