When a piece of content such as an article or video generates massive word-of-mouth by being linked to and viewed by thousands of people, it is said to have ‘gone viral’, spreading like an infectious disease.
This is a great thing to happen and it should be one of your aims — but remember it’s the audience, not you, who decide whether something is viral or not. The word ‘viral’ should really be in inverted commas, since you can’t create viral content — you can only create something you believe is great, show it to other people and hope they agree!
For example, I’ve written and released four free e-books in the last three years, but only two of them have gone viral. The first of these, Time Management for Creative People, has been downloaded over 70,000 times and brought me a lot of exposure and new clietns. It was also one of the things that caught the eye of Brian Clark and Tony Clark, who (unknown to me) were thinking about creating a site about creativity and productivity. If I hadn’t given away my e-book for free, I might never have got to work with them on Lateral Action.
What (potentially) viral content could you create?
Licensed images or music
Video (via YouTube)
Creative Commons Licenses
Contrary to the way a lot of people behave, copyright still exists on the Internet. Legally, your website counts as a publication, exposing you to litigation if you publish copyrighted material without the owner’s permission. So be careful!
We’re used to thinking of copyright in terms of protection — but what if you actually want people to copy and share your content, so that it has a chance of going viral? Creative Commons provides an elegant solution to this problem. When you visit the creative Commons site, you can create a legally binding licence, giving people permission to copy and republish your work under certain conditions. So, for example, my e-books are released under this Creative Commons license, which gives people permission to copy and share the document as long as they credit me as the author, keep it intact in its original form and don’t use it for commercial purposes.
Another great thing about Creative Commons is that there is plenty of excellent material out there, which you are legally allowed to publish on your website. I use Compfight to search Flickr for high-quality photographs to accompany my blog articles. It allows me to search for images licensed for commercial use — as long as I link back to the photographer’s page, it’s perfectly legal. It’s a win-win situation: I get a beautiful image for my blog, and the photographer gets exposure to my audience.
A Complete Guide to Finding and Using Incredible Flickr Images