What makes content spread: The anatomy of a post that got over 500,000 likes

From Buffer:

Marc and Angel Chernoff run one of the most incredible blogs at marcandangel.com, publishing most inspiring content day in day out, that regularly spreads across social media garnering thousands of social shares, if not hundreds of thousand.

One of the most fascinating pieces Marc and Angel have written is a certain post that got over 500,000 likes, over 20,000 Tweets and several more thousand shares on other social networks. Here is the title and link to the post for you to look up yourself:

“30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself” 

Why did this post go so viral?, is what I asked Marc and Angel. We discussed a lot of different things they learnt from writing it and hundreds of other articles over the past 7 years. Marc and Angel (on the right), had been writing content for a long time already, so lots of different factors, most of which I can’t mention here, have brought them the success they see today. I thought I’d put the most important elements we talked about all in form of a blogpost for more all of us to learn from.

So without further ado, here are the 6 most important ingredients to achieve a wild viral impact of how your content spreads:

 

1.) The science of persuasion: Nailing the fear of “missing out”

In my chat with Marc and Angel, one key thing they mentioned to me is that they wrote two posts. One was titled “30 Things to Start Doing for Yourself” and “30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself”. Interestingly, the second one, using a negative “stop” or “avoid”, “don’t” and similar in other postsalways performed better.

Marc and Angel’s reasoning was that everyone wants to read over these posts to see and check if there isn’t anything on that list, they might be doing and should stop. It goes hand in hand with what Robert Cialdini calls one of the laws of persuasionscarcity and missing out.

If you are writing something that’s unique and people might have a feeling of otherwise missing out on, then this is a fantastic trigger to get people interested in your content.

“If there are 30 things you need to stop doing to yourself, I better check if there are any I’m still doing today.” said Marc to describe the thinking and motivation behind why a reader might want to read and then share the article.

 

2.) We only read 20% of web pages – make your content easy to skim read

“On the average Web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.” ~ Nielson

Another point, that I discussed with Marc and Angel was that list posts have a unique appeal for readers online. The reason is simple, we all love bite-sized information on the web. Now, a list article is the perfect format for this. A post that gives you “30 Things” is very powerful. On the one hand, you know that you can just pick out a few of the 30 things, so it is easy to skim. On the other, if all of those individual 30 points are very interesting and useful, just reading one of the 30, can be all it takes to share it with a friend.

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