When content goes viral, someone gets their 15 minutes of fame. Going viral can help (or hurt) your reputation, bring in new opportunities, or simply lead to a lot of memes. Many people go viral on accident, but here’s a little-known fact: you can engineer your content to be shared and go viral on purpose. 

Going viral for the wrong reasons can be detrimental to your career prospects, so it’s important not to push shareable content just for your 15 minutes of fame. Instead, you need to go viral with content that’s authentic to you and your values. Here are some tips for going viral the right way. 

Understand Why People Share Content 

With so much content on the internet, it’s inevitable that most of it gets ignored. The videos, posts, podcasts, tweets, and pictures that get shared are the exceptions—they get all of the online attention because they have a larger presence and people are talking about them. 

So what makes content highly shareable? Fortunately for us, we don’t have to guess. Studies and analysis of millions of posts show us that people share content for many different reasons. 

The good news is that there’s a lot of overlap in these reasons. People share when content entertains or inspires them, is from a trusted source, offers advice, is easy to digest (lists, infographics, photos), or appeals to their sense of self/makes them look smart or insightful. There are other reasons people share, but these are among the top reasons content goes viral. 

Map Out a Plan for Going Viral 

It might feel strange to make a plan for going viral, but you don’t want to go down the road of throwing things at the internet and seeing what sticks. You’ll just end up frustrated and with nothing much to show for it. 

Instead, study social media marketing and learn best practices for creating viral content so you can create a plan. You’ll want to map out the best platforms for your content, how you’ll generate buzz, and how you’ll leverage the attention that comes from going viral. 

Next: Identify Your Target Audience

Any marketer knows that if you’re trying to appeal to everyone, you’ll end up appealing to no one. You must identify a target audience for your content before you even decide what to create. To get everyone sharing, you need to start with a smaller segment of the population that will be the most motivated to share. 

Think about who would respond best to the kind of content you want to create. What are their demographics? What are their interests? How much money do they make? What social media platforms do they use?

Learn as much as you can about the people who will (hopefully) share your content. You need to get inside their head and think about what compels them the most to share. 

Develop High-Quality Content That Provides Value to Your Audience

Yes, some content goes viral because it’s silly, stupid, or just insanely cute. But when you’re creating your content, you should be thinking about the amount of value it can provide and your goals for the content. To be authentic, the content needs to align with your values and appeal to the values of your target audience. And if you want more than your 15 minutes of fame, your viral content has to have substance and spark inspiration and opportunity. 

This is a tall order for a piece of content. But remember, it’s not easy to stand out. Going viral is rare, and it’s rarer still for viral content to generate ongoing interest. So your content has to be high-quality and provide value to your audience. It needs to surprise and delight or otherwise motivate them enough to share!

Make Sure You Share Content At the Right Time 

Sure, you can post something in the middle of the night and get some shares, especially if you have an international audience. But if you want to go viral, you need to pay close attention to the timing of your content. Not only should you be posting when your target audience is most active online, but you should be paying attention to the world around you and the context of your content

You don’t want to go viral for having bad timing. Keep up with relevant hashtags and be mindful of when people are likely to share. Timing is only one piece of the puzzle, but it’s important!

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t go viral right away. It’s not easy to do, or everyone would be doing it. But if you stay authentic and don’t use gimmicks or unethical tricks to get your content shared, you’ll be better off in the long run.