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The Irresistible Allure of Trending Content

The Irresistible Allure of Trending Content

Content goes viral for a reason. Understanding the ingredients of shareable content can help you produce ideas that spread. This post will break down the elements that can tip your content from average to exceptional. Get ready to learn the art and science of crafting content that cascades through social feeds.

Why Trending Content Matters

Content that trends reaches a massive audience. A single viral post can introduce your brand to millions of new people. Not only that, but viral content generates valuable social proof. People who see others engaging with your content are likelier to do the same. This herd mentality effect accelerates sharing.

But most importantly, trending content fuels organic discovery. Algorithms favour content that generates buzz. So, a viral post will continue surfacing in feeds long after initial sharing dies down. The momentum can introduce your work to new waves of people over an extended period.

In other words, one piece of trending content can have a long-tailed impact on your brand awareness. Rather than constantly fighting for attention, you earn an ally in the form of an algorithmic amplifier.

The Psychology of Virality

How Viral Marketing Works

Virality relies on specific emotional responses. Crafting contagious content means strategically eliciting reactions that motivate people to share. Let's explore critical viral triggers:


Unexpected ideas shatter assumptions, delivering cognitive jolts. These moments of surprise stick in people's minds while prompting deeper processing. Research shows that interrupting people's existing narratives with unfamiliar angles makes content more shareable.


Uplifting stories about overcoming challenges or exhibiting virtue spread widely. Inspiring content builds hope, renews faith in humanity, and promotes positive values. These nourishing emotional rewards incentivise sharing.


Laughter releases pleasure chemicals that improve mood. Comedic content offers people social currency for brightening others' days. Funny memes, jokes, and wit spread cheer through networks.


Anger is a high-arousal emotion that motivates action. Outrage can ignite people's sense of injustice, driving them to raise awareness. However, constructive outrage focused on uniting people behind solutions tends to spread further.


Experiences of profundity through exposure to wisdom, talent, beauty, or skill can evoke an awed response. By sharing the source of the awe, people act as digital evangelists for meaningful ideas.

As you can see, content that sparks strong emotions compels sharing. People pass on viral ideas as “gifts” to provoke reactions in others.

Ingredients of Viral Content

Likelihood Of Going Viral

Now, let's examine critical ingredients that make up shareable content across formats:


As mentioned above, fresh, unexpected angles intrigue people. Presenting common topics in new ways piques interest. The unfamiliar also promotes deeper cognitive engagement as people interpret further information.

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Content that connects to trending topics feeds off collective attention—tapping into what's already popular with a unique addition leverages virality momentum.


Most people prefer sharing uplifting concepts. Harmful content breeds fatigue from excessive outrage. Promoting human virtues through storytelling tends to inspire more engagement.


Ideas that distil complex topics into accessible language and digestible formats spread more quickly. Hard-to-process concepts require deeper thinking, raising sharing barriers.

Visual Impact

People increasingly consume content via scrolling feeds. Visually striking images, video, or bold typography stands out in noisy streams. This stops scrolling and prompts shares.


Helpful, practical advice people can apply in their own lives offers value. Educational how-tos, life hacks, and productivity tips give valuable knowledge and social currency.


Compelling narratives structured with dramatic arcs elicit emotional investment. Stories feel relatable while allowing imagination to fill gaps. This immersive engagement boosts sharing.


As mentioned above, with outrage, reasonable counter-narratives to accepted thinking prompt discourse and debate. This fuels sharing from multiple angles.


Laughter disarms people and improves mood, priming positive associations. Funny content offers emotional release, making it highly shareable. Just avoid off-colour or alienating humour.

Comment Bait

Content structured to provoke reactions through strong opinions, questions, or provocative assertions can drive comments. This engages people in public discourse.

These elements infect content with the potential for contagion through networks. Study viral hits to see ingredients combined for maximum sharing.

Optimising Content For Virality

How To Create Viral Instagram Images

You can strategically engineer content to encourage sharing by planning for crucial elements:


Craft headlines targeting emotional triggers like curiosity through creative phrasing. Focus on providing value by highlighting what the reader will learn.


Select images that grab attention through bold colours, composition, and visual interest. Photographs can enhance content or contradict expectations.


Connect content to trending conversations and current events by offering novel analysis or commentary. Timeliness fuels opportunistic buzz.


Adopt an engaging, conversational tone that reads like a friend sharing ideas. Use strategic questions and humour to entertain readers.


Break up walls of text with numbered lists, bullet points, subheads, and bold/italicised highlights. This improves skimmability for overloaded readers.


Shorter content optimises shareability by easing consumption. But provide enough depth to enrich readers rather than superficial fluff.


End with a recap and call-to-action. Prompt readers to apply insights, share reactions, or reframe perspectives. This activates audiences.


Share content through owned channels, outreach to influencers, and paid amplification. Getting the initial momentum going is critical.


Track engagement and modify underperforming elements. Constant optimisation using analytics improves sharing over time.

Virality combines science and serendipity. While you can engineer content for maximum share potential, unpredictability remains. However, implementing these lessons should increase the odds of creating a runaway hit.

Case Studies of Viral Content

Let's analyse real examples that won the Internet's heart:

Lane Moore's “It's All Going to Be Okay” Music Video

This video captures the pandemic's collective grief through vulnerable singing into a webcam. Simple and emotionally resonant, it struck a chord during an uncertain time. Moore's authenticity fostered a rare sense of connection between strangers.

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Brene Brown's TED Talk on Vulnerability

By candidly discussing a topic riddled with shame, Brown permitted people to embrace vulnerability as strength. Her storytelling made the research insights accessible while reframing a taboo. This empowering message uplifted countless viewers.

Humans of New York Photo Series

Brandon Stanton's photography project captures the diversity of human experience on NYC streets via portraits and captions sharing people's stories. The relatable glimpses into strangers' lives reveal our shared humanity. This compelling concept spread globally.

Gary Vaynerchuk's “Crushing It”

Vaynerchuk's energetic straight talk on mindsets for success resonated widely by mixing humour, profanity, and unfiltered opinions. His charisma and “zero to one million” personal story cemented his digital thought leader status.

Ylvis “What Does the Fox Say?”

This absurd song and meme-able video highlight the power of novelty, humour, and imagery. The weirdness of grown men dressed as foxes singing nonsense phrases became an international viral sensation.

Each example combined critical ingredients for maximum shareability while filling a cultural need. Studying their formulas provides helpful models.

Risks of Engineering Virality

The lure of mass attention can lead brands to prioritise engineering viral content over substance. But forced efforts often backfire through a lack of authenticity. Consider these risks:

Compromising Credibility

Over-optimisation for shares can make content feel gimmicky, emotionally manipulative, or blatantly promotional. This damages a brand's integrity.

Neglecting Values

Virality motives may tempt marketers to create status-quo content that lacks diverse perspectives. But meaningful representation deepens human connections.

Encouraging Toxicity

Content designed to outrage can breed unhealthy discourse, falsehoods, and divisiveness. Responsible brands uplift humanity.

Losing Focus

Viral fixation can distract from core brand objectives and audience needs. Stay grounded in purpose-driven communication.

The most potent viral content remains aligned with brand values while meeting audience interests. Avoid chasing engagement through clickbait that only provides hollow reach.

Sustainable Success Through Purpose

Trending content offers a temporary rush of attention. But brands seeking lasting cultural impact should focus on purposeful ideas that meaningfully connect with audiences.

Ask yourself these questions when creating:

  • How does this enrich people's lives?
  • What new perspectives or insights does it provide?
  • How does it empower positive action?
  • Whose voices are represented?
  • What change could it inspire?

Content that provokes reflection stirs compassion, or rallies support for progress generates deeper engagement than fleeting virality. Audiences crave substance that improves society.

Platforms will continue feeding our addiction to distraction through ephemeral content “snacks” designed to maximise ads. But we must nourish our better selves through ideas that lead to understanding, justice, community, truth, and positive change.

Brands play a crucial role in shifting focus to nourishment. Make resonant meaning, not eyeballs, the metric of success.

Key Takeaways

Trending content leverages psychological drivers of sharing to achieve viral reach. Strategically incorporating surprise, inspiration, utility, simplicity, and more into your work can expand its audience.

However, engineered virality risks compromising brand integrity if not aligned with purpose and values. Avoid surface-level clickbait. Instead, focus on creating content meaningfully impacts people, speaks truth, and creates social value.

The most powerful ideas erupt from authentic human insight. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously stated, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his facts.” Anchor your ideas firmly in reality. Seek truth. And let meaning blaze trails through networks.

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With these principles guiding your efforts, you can send created content rippling through culture, reaching shores of resonance far beyond your sight.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes content trend organically?

Authentic ideas that tap into the collective consciousness and speak to universal human needs have the best chance of trending without paid promotion. Shared human experiences and emotions like love, loss, pride, joy, fear, and hope often fuel organic virality.

How can I make old content go viral again?

Reviving existing content requires connecting it to current events or anniversaries to make it timely again. Also, promoting forgotten content through paid ads or outreach to influencers can reignite shares. Finally, repurposing evergreen content into new formats and angles gives it renewed potential.

What metrics indicate viral success?

Critical indicators of viral content include total reach, views and listen, social sharing rates, click-through rate, inbound links, embedded uses of content, follower growth, website traffic, conversions, search rankings, and longevity of shares over time rather than short spikes.

What should you avoid when trying to go viral?

Avoid clickbait tactics, sensationalism, misinformation, manipulation, bad faith arguments, lack of fact-checking, stealing others' content, invading privacy, orchestrated sharing schemes, bot promotion, and anything that damages audience trust. Focus on quality over manufactured virality.

How much does it cost to make something go viral?

Virality relies on unpredictable social chemistry, but brands can lower costs through organic optimisation. Paid promotion via influencers and social/search ads starts around $50 but can cost thousands for global outreach. Focus first on shareable creative, organic engagement, and earned media before paying to boost average content.

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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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