Crafting a Contagious Story


A great story going viral is a public relations dream.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this lingo, the term “going viral” refers to an online article or video spiking in popularity and reaching a large number of people in a short amount of time. But what causes an article or story on social media to go viral? And how you can get more people to share your story?

To help you understand what I’m talking about, I have included a link to the list of 13 things that went viral in 2013. This list includes the “What Does the Fox Say?” video as well as my personal favorite, “#Hashtagging with Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake.”

Now that we are on the same page, let’s talk about what makes a story go viral, as well as how you can increase your story’s readership. According to The New Yorker, you should use one of these top three angles: an ethical appeal, an emotional appeal or a logical appeal.

With these three points in mind, two professors at The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business decided to analyze nearly seven thousand articles that went viral in 2008 to try to determine what made these articles the most passed-around items. Their findings revealed the following:

  • Stories with positive messages and that make readers excited are shared the most.
  • Articles that make a reader extremely angry or anxious are just as likely to be shared as “feel-good” stories.
  • Stories or videos that were amusing are often shared—kind of obvious but worth noting.
  • An inflammatory post which provokes negative feedback is more likely to be shared than a judicious post on the same event.
  • People share bizarre stories about things that do not happen often.
  • Lists (Like BuzzFeed’s Top 10) are often shared.

While some of the above may not necessarily apply to stories about your senior living community, the list does provide useful insights on ways to optimize your readership. Perhaps you have a story on a fantastic event your community held. Instead of posting a generic release with photos, you could create a “Top Ten Reasons This Event Was a Huge Success” list. You could give one reason as the unique theme of the event, and include a photo to represent each point. A concise and bulleted list with pictures of the event is more likely to be shared than a full article on the subject.

Feel free to be quirky, try new things and—most important—have fun. You’ll probably find that your posts will be easier to write and be more engaging not only to the people who read them but the people you’re writing about. Remember, if you’re writing a story about one of your residents, chances are they and their friends and family will all read it (and share it) as well!

The more unique the story, as well as the way it’s told, the more likely you are to receive further “shares” and “likes.” So put on your thinking caps, because it’s time to get creative!


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