5 Steps to Writing an Article that Will Go Viral


Have you ever wondered what makes certain stories go viral?

With the amount of stories published online every second, how do you cut through the noise (assuming you want to do it ethically)? How come successful writers don’t become successful bloggers and vice versa? Is there such a thing as ‘writing for the internet’?

I recently wrote an article that went viral. Within the first 10 hours, it was shared over 1200 times, completely organically, no marketing budget involved. How did it happen? I didn’t spend time on keyword research, I simply followed these 5 easy steps:

1. Start with a question.

Try to provide answers to a problem. Ask yourself: ‘What problem am I trying to solve?’ Your answer may be: I want to make people feel less alone with their problems OR I want to save their time OR I want to help them avoid making the same mistake I made…

          Whatever it is you’re writing, make sure your content serves a purpose.

2. Know your audience.

I am an expat living in Amsterdam, therefore I write about being an expat in Amsterdam. I am my audience.  Although it’s a relatively small audience (between 39000-75000 in the entire Netherlands), it’s certainly very active and engaged.

It is also very targeted: vast majority follow the same Facebook groups, go to the same meetups and come across the same problems. 

Targeting a specific, narrow group has many advantages: 

  • – the references you make will be understood
  • – the jokes you tell won’t fall flat or be considered offensive
  • – the audience will empathise with you

If you are not as close to your audience, what data points can you use to understand the mindset of your reader? What education level do they have, what do they do in their free time, what are their values? 

Do they like memes or scientific facts? Sarcasm or compassion? Do they consume articles daily, weekly, monthly? Look into Facebook audience insights (but don’t be creepy!), use Google Analytics and, perhaps less common nowadays, your own common sense. 

3. Don’t pretend to be someone else.

In a sea of fake news, authenticity is cherished. Write from the heart, write as if you were telling a story to your dear friends over a cup of hot coffee. Don’t be pretentious and drop Thesaurus – this is not a university essay. You want the people to spend the little time they have reading what you have to say. Make it enjoyable. Don’t show off. There is a time and place for that (for example on your LinkedIN profile).

4. Make them laugh. Or cry. Or both.

If you can connect to people’s emotions, stop reading now – you’ve got it. It is incredibly difficult to make someone laugh, particularly when you’re paid to do it – any stand up comedian would agree. Now, I don’t recommend that you set off trying to make your readers cry, but perhaps you are about to share a story that is dear to you and that is sad.

make your audience laughTell your story truthfully, as if you were talking to one person only. Test your content on your partner (unless you can’t take criticism) and watch their reaction. No tears in sight? Go back to the keyboard!

5. Make it a list.

See what I did there? People like lists: shopping lists, to do lists, bucket lists, top 100 hottest celebrities lists. Lists save us time, make content bite-sized and easier to consume. Search engines love them, they help organise your thoughts into topics without all the unnecessary fluffy detail.

How to write viral content

Do you have any other tips on writing a good article? Let me know!