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12 Principles Of Viral Content

Nadya Khoja

Director of Marketing, Venngage

Head of Marketing at @Venngage and Creator of drinkwithnadya.com. Speaker. Feminist. As seen on @HuffingtonPost @Entrepreneur @TheNextWeb @Forbes

Toronto, Ontario
Nadya Khoja


Mission: make design and data accessible for everyone

Vengage grew from $8k MRR -> $350k MRR over 3 years. How?

Over this growth, Vengage has focused on organic traffic and content marketing.

About Nadya

Nadya got a theatre degree in a program without a script - the direction was just to "make a great story".

Having too much freedom can be stunting. In this theatre program, Nadya and her classmates focused on their limitations. What were they not allowed to do?

By focusing on their limitations, they could be more creative.

What is Viral?

Content that is circulated rapidly and widely from one web user to another.

When making viral content, most people focus on clickbaity titles. This will get a bunch of content generated, but it won't be quality content that actually engages users.

How do you create quality content?

Instead of focusing on what to do ("create engaging and thought provoking content"), ask how.

Ask how to:

  • leave your readers with questions
  • write a promising intro
  • how to tell a compelling story

12 Principles

1. Solve a burning problem

What problems are your users facing? Use those questions to fuel the content you're creating.

Why are reddit AMAs so successful? It gives people outlets to ask successful people existing questions.

Solve a burning problem by providing new answers to existing questions

2. Find hacks to common struggles

What makes "The Magic Art of Tidying Up" better than other guides to house cleaning? The solution is framed as a magical solution.

"Does this thing spark joy?" is a great magic wand to solve a complex problem. This is better than a litmus test of "have you used it in the last 6 months?" because it's hard to think back for each item over the last 6 months. It's easy to ask yourself if a thing sparks joy.

Why did 17M people watch How to Fold a shirt in 15 seconds? It's 1) a common task we're all familiar with, and 2) a simplified way of doing it.

What tasks is your audience doing on a daily basis, and how could you give them a hack to their common struggle?

3. Bust a myth

Disprove a "common knowledge" theory.

Ex: Millennials Don’t Suck, You’re Just Old and Hate Change [Infographic]

By busting a myth, you encourage debate, get more links, get more shares, and get more recognition

By busting a myth, you encourage debate, get more links, get more shares, and get more recognition

4. Challenge the Status Quo

Similarly to busting a myth, challenging the status quo gets people talking about you, and get better brand recognition.

5. Reframe the Question

Identify what the question is, then approach it from a different angle.

Example: The World's deadliest animals reframes the question of "why is the malaria vaccination important" by reframing the question to "what are the world's deadliest animals"

6. Bring in a New Perspective

Move away from the traditional perspective to explore topics through a new lens.

Everyone talks about Stephen Curry's percentage of shots taken, performance, and 3-point game.

How could you stand out? Talk about NBA Unicorns! Talk about the economics of Stephen Curry! Talk about how CEOs work compared to athletes!

7. Mashup Multiple Topics

Combine trending themes with evergreen themes.

Is Star Wars trending? Combine it with the evergreen theme of good design.

Combine trending themes with evergreen themes, like Design and Star Wars

8. Go outside of your immediate field

Broaden your scope to talk about more general problems in your field.

Look for more general problems in your field

9. Find niches and subcultures to comment on

People tend to become very obsessive about their subcultures, and those subcultures can grow very quickly.

10. Explore and Visualize Origin Stories

Origin stories are some of the most engaging and inspiring. Think of aspects within your industry that have an interesting history and tell that story!

Origin stories like "Marvel's Daredevil", "Marvel's Luke Cage", and "Marvel's Jessica Jones" are some of the top viewed Netflix original shows (and some of the highest grossing films in Hollywood).

11. Envision the Before and After State

Help your customer get to a better state

Compare your user's state before and after for what they have, how they feel, what an average day looks like, and what their status is. Here's an example with baby bathtubs:

Before and after having a baby bathtub

12. Include a reason to share

Ask yourself why your audience should share your content. Will it help them better express themselves?

Trump tweets are viral because people care about what he says. They speak, write and act in response to that care.



  1. Solve a burning problem
  2. Find hacks to common struggles
  3. Bust a myth
  4. Challenge the status quo
  5. Reframe the question
  6. Bring in a new perspective
  7. Mashup multiple topics
  8. Go outside your immediate field
  9. Find niches and subcultures
  10. Explore origin stories
  11. Envision the before and after state
  12. Include a reason to share

Also, get a free design at venngage.com/blog/microconf


Has there ever been a pushback from JK Rowling or Star Wars for mashing up their content?

Nah, they're too big to care.

Have you created content around a very technical topic

Yes - content around our own tools capabilities, like twitter analytics data.

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