Top 10 Drivers of Viral Content on Facebook – What Type of Content Is More Likely to Be Shared?

In the battle of social media marketing, the image, .gif, video, meme, etc., with the most favorites, shares, likes, etc., reigns supreme! But how exactly can you make your social media content sell like hotcakes? The answer is simple: you need to have content that makes viewers feel. The feeling they get must not be “blah” or “Meh” but extreme, i.e. AWWWW, WTF!!!!!. OMG; so much so that they react and click that oh so important Favorite, Share, Like button.

Caption It

Nowadays, you can caption your image or video to lead your audience. A caption must be simple and straight to the point. If you can inject humor in the caption, go ahead! It must be visible but not hog the entire image! Think of meme’s!


Music Please

If the content you are sharing is a video, then you should debate on background music. As a general rule, if the video is silent, then you want background music. If the video is filled with dialogue, then background music must be very subtle, and can even be absent.

Here are the top 10 viral content drivers.

1. Amusement

Netizens are not easily amused. But when they do, you got something that’s viral! A popular example of amusing viral content is the “Terry Crews Old Spice Commercial series”. Now, Old Spice knows how to milk a cow for all it’s worth. But they also know when to move on and use momentum to their advantage.

Terry Crews Old Spice Commercial series kid

So after sucking Terry Crews dry of all his Pa-Pa-PA-Pa-PA-PA-POWER, they know Old Spice equates to manliness. So the next commercial they came up with was a radical concept of singing moms and how: “Old Spice, made a man of my son, now he’s kissing all the women and his chores aren’t done…” Catchy isn’t it!

2. Interest

Blah social media posts may get people to notice your post, but they don’t feel strongly enough about it to click and learn more. What is worse is that very interesting topics are unnoticed because there isn’t a very good still photograph or caption that gets people’s attention.

the vagina kayak

Take for example the vagina kayak. If the person who posted the same just showed the picture of an old lady on a yellow, odd looking kayak, then it wouldn’t have gotten so much attention. Good thing the poster knows how to use sound bites and labeled it “swimming in my vagina”.

3. Surprised

Perfumes and colognes are made to surprise you. The best perfumes do it in stages. The top note is your initial impression. It needs to be bold. The middle note or heart must develop and accentuate the scents that were left by the top note. The base note which is the aftermath must cling to you. That is how you should surprise an audience with a social media post. Don’t just dazzle them with a flashy entrance. Build on it. Then leave them wanting more.

A good example would be the selfie picture taken by Ellen Degeneres. That was unexpected. But the story was milked for all it’s worth because of clever after selfie interviews. How it almost didn’t happen, and about the actors who were actually there, but couldn’t get in the frame.

selfie picture taken by Ellen Degeneres

Body language also plays a huge role when it comes to surprise. In fact, even if the face is obscured, body language alone will show you the raw emotion. Take for example Darth Vader and Volkswagen. In fact, in this skit, the boy who was in full Darth Vader costume, except his hands, effectively showed multiple emotions just with hand gestures.

4. Happiness

Okay, most social media posts have a dab of happiness in them. But what makes a difference? What separates, blah happiness from happiness shared all over the world. When it comes to happiness, you want raw emotion. You want spontaneity. If possible, you want a photogenic subject. To be clear, you don’t need a handsome or beautiful model. There is a big difference between photogenic and handsome/beautiful.

most photogenic fun run runner

For example: have you seen the most photogenic fun run runner? It’s basically a picture of a guy in shirt and shorts, with a couple days old beard, running. Yes the guy is above average handsome, but you don’t notice that. The first thing you notice is a genuine and highly infectious smile.

5. Delight

Delight is a tricky subject. This is because it has the elements of joy, happiness, affection, etc. But it is more specific in that you look for a spontaneous reaction that is captured. That being said, it’s a lot trickier to photograph delight than it is to take a video of the same.

In both cases, you want to have a good view of the eyes and lips of the subject. There is this twinkling sensation that you feel from the eyes of your subject. The entire facial expression is a mix of happiness and shock. If it’s a video, then a squeal of delight is also a must.

chnauzer doggie that was so happy to see a family member

For example: Have you seen the video of the schnauzer doggie that was so happy to see a family member, it fainted! Here’s a background story: Casey hadn’t been home in 2 years. So when she finally went back home, the schnauzer was all over her. You have to understand 2 years for us is 14 years in dog years. This is absolutely an AWWWWW moment, because you realize that dogs are capable of raw delight and have the capacity to remember!

6. Pleasure

Based on observation, pleasure captured on social media is conceptualized differently for pictures and videos. For pictures, you want to be very specific about the type of pleasure. If done correctly, you can then play with the end emotion, either by understating or overstating the pleasure. The classic example of this is the “got Milk” series of Ads. In one picture, you can see the pleasure a person derives from drinking milk.


Pleasure in video is often times misdirection. You have a subject that doesn’t scream pleasure. The opening scene is the exact opposite, and is all about pleasure. It is however, seamlessly linked to the end. A classic example is: the Kubota commercial on the pleasure of driving… a farm tractor. See what they did there!

7. Joy

Joy is different from pleasure, happiness, delight, etc., because it is best portrayed by innocence. To be clear, you don’t need a child to show joy. All you need is child like euphoria. Take for example, the viral social media post about the guy who saw a double rainbow. This post garnered 3,100,000 views in 8 days! The model is not an innocent child. It’s a fully grown bear of a man. The emotion is raw, and is childlike in innocence…or he’s probably just stoned.

the guy who saw a double rainbow

8. Hope

Hope is an emotion that is best shown with subtlety. If captured right, it can engender a flood of response. In pictures and videos, it is portrayed using interplay of light and dark, i.e. hand holding a candle in the dark. However, hope is also best shown thru a short story. Have you heard of the story of the dog that got abandoned by its owner because it was crippled? How the same dog looked horrendous before and now has the soulful eyes of hope and thanks? It’s a tear jerker!

9. Affection

What better describes affection than a mother and her child? This transcends gender, age, race, religion, ethnicity, and humanity even. Have you heard of the story of the two guys who bought a baby lion they named Christian? Eventually when the lion grew too big, they were forced to return Christian into the wild. After 1 year, John and Ace went to see Christian in Africa. By this time the lion cub has grown to maturity and is a member of a pride. What followed was a tear jerker! The lion actually remembered his former guardians, came close, and gave both of them a hug!

the lion hug

10. Excitement

We’ve saved the best for last! Excitement is easy. All you need is a good soundtrack, an orchestra even. Sprinkle it with choice monologue. Add an over the top premise. Now use an icon of action movies and plant him squarely on the side view mirror of two moving trucks: one foot, one truck, both moving in reverse. Now make him do a split. If that doesn’t get your heart pumping, nothing will. Yup, it’s the Volvo commercial starring Jean-Claude Van Damme!

Volvo commercial starring Jean-Claude Van Damme

To date, the “Epic Split” commercial has more than 74.5 million views, more than 440,000 likes. It propelled Van Damme into a second wind of superstardom! And if imitation is the best form of flattery, then you have Channing Tatum and even Chuck Norris joining in on the fray. One advertiser puts it. “It’s time to quit, because nothing tops this”.


Marketer and social media expert. I started out doing regular website SEO back in 2005 when things were a lot easier. Adapted to the changes and tried everything myself in order to see what really works and what doesn't. Even if I see all the gurus advocating for a way or other of doing things I always want to see the results with my own eyes so I do my own testing. Be sure that if you're reading my articles what I talk about in them really works. Fell in love with Social media a few years back when I started looking for alternate ways of driving traffic to my sites. The interaction and meeting new and interesting people all while actually working is a great way of doing things.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Linda Bomba

    Facebook loves native videos!

    1. Johnny

      That’s right Linda! No wonder Twitter did the same with their videos.

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