If you follow Facebook pages like Buzzfeed (at least one of their many pages), Hello giggle, Unilad or anything similar, you’re fully aware of the catch lines they use to persuade us to click. We’ve grown so used to reading (and clicking) catch phrases like “And then the most amazing thing happened”, “Out of this world”, “You won’t believe what..” or “It’ll blow your mind”. But does that make them viral? Nope.

But Buzzsumo has analyzed over 1 billion most shared posts to try to understand why they go viral. Unfortunately, they haven’t found a magic formula but they do have some useful tips to improve posts’ shareability and engagement.

They’ve identified 4 elements that occur with viral content:

Combining these elements doesn’t necessarily mean that your article will go viral but they can help improve their shareability. Here are buzzsumo’s lessons from the most shared content of 2015:

How To Go Viral

1- Surprise People (Facts & Images)

People like sharing content that surprises them like new research, upcoming trends and things that will challenge their perceptions.

Buzzsumo found that the most shared content on the London Evening Standard in 2015 was a post about new research.

standard-champagnePretty cool research too.

What makes it viral? – Provocative titles, interesting content backed by research.

2- Leverage A Trend

Write about upcoming trends. If you use them in your content, you’ll increase engagement with your users. This year, the most popular trend was Zombies.

This simple article about a Zombie-themed cruise got 400,000 comments. Imagine that!

zombie-post

What makes it viral? – Talk about things that people are talking about. Listen to your users and use what you hear for your content.

3- Inspire People

Inspirational quotes are always a hit: whether they include images or just text, people love them.

Buzzfeed’s most shared article is a list of the most beautiful literature quotes:

buzzfeed-quotesWhat makes it viral? – A list of inspirational and curated content.

4- Create Picture List Posts

People love spectacular stunning pictures and people love lists. If you put those two together, you may have a hit.

This post was the 4th most shared post on the New York Times in 2015:

ny-post-2

What makes it viral? – Awe-inspiring pictures and curated content in a form of a list!

5- Cute Animals & Babies

Cats and babies are cliché but they actually do work!

For example, Gizmodo’s top post this year was about pets:

stuffed-animal-list

What makes them so viral? – Because everyone loves animals and babies.

6- Be Amusing

People like sharing amusing content. So make sure you make your users laugh!

For example, this was one of the top Vines this year!

vine-video

vine-list

What makes them so viral? – Entertaining posts and videos.

7- Be Controversial

It’s risky but people usually share this kind of content to show their loyalty towards a certain “tribe”.

For example, Donald Trumps Facebook posts has tons of interactions:

donaldtrump

The most controversial statements are the ones that have most interactions:

trump-chart

What makes them so viral? – Controversial opinions about trending topics. Find your tribe, and if it’s big enough, they’ll help you go viral.

8- Quizzes

People love wasting time on quizzes, specially if it tells them something about themselves. The most successful quizzes encourage users to share the quiz with their friends right after completing it.

For example, the second most shared post on Playbuzz was “What is your most dominant character trait?”

playbuzz-quiz

What makes them so viral? – Easy quizzes that teaches users something new about themselves. It’s important to have an interactive content format and encourage them to share.

9- Provide Warnings

Warnings to other people about dangers such as a scam.

For example, the most shared post of Webmd.com was a warning about Tylenol:

warning-list

What makes them so viral? –Helpful content.

10- Tell Them The Secrets Of Success

People love valuable and helpful content that will help them be more successful.

For example, one of the most shared post on Linkedin is “How successful people stay calm”

linkedin-post

linkedin-list

What makes them so viral? – Tips on being successful.

11- Health, Diet & Fitness Tips

This was one of the most popular trends this year. The three most shared posts on Buzzfeed were about health:

buzzfeed-health

 

What makes them so viral? – Health, diet and fitness tips with useful images. List posts.

12- Tell Them Secrets Of Love & Dating

Who doesn’t want to know the secrets of true love?

For example, the most shared post on Thoughtcatalog was “This is how we date now”:

how-we_date

What makes them so viral? – Insights into love and dating. How-to’s!

13- Share The Secret To A Long Life

We just want to live longer and know the secrets to it. This was the second most shared article on Huffington:

huff-post-old

 

What makes them so viral? – Share the secret of eternal life.

14- Share A Heart Warming Story

People love stories and they love to share heart warming stories.

This one mixes the eternal life trend, love and is a heart warming story:

usa-old-post

usa-list
What makes them so viral? – This post contained a happy story of a long marriage and possibly the secrets of a long life.

So, do you think you can go viral in 2016?