Four ways to cut through the noise on social media

How one college thinks about content that will 'go viral'

While there is no guaranteed strategy for going viral on social media, Gettysburg College has experienced success by following four rules when creating content. 

During the last few weeks, a school official says three stories about the college have attained "viral status" on social media:

  • A story about what students could do with a degree in history other than teaching;
  • A video of a student learning on the "Today" show that she had been accepted to Gettysburg; and
  • A video recap of Gettysburg's New York City campaign featuring a student.  

"[The stories] came together in different ways and were on different topics, but what they shared were similar elements that I believe make up the recipe for viral content," says Paul Redfern, head of the communications and marketing team at Gettysburg.

According to Redfern, viral stories share four key elements:

1: An emotional connection  

People crave stories with a deep emotional message. Go beyond the surface to craft an exciting narrative that is sure to draw in readers or viewers.

"Our stories need characters, a plot, a twist, a challenge, and a great ending, and we need to tell them in compelling and interesting ways," Redfern says.

2: A targeted audience

Understand your audience so that you can best tailor stories to their interests. Your content will look and feel different depending on whether you're trying to reach prospective students or alumni.

3: A knowledgeable team

Your content creation team has to understand all facets of content strategy, from creating headlines to collaborating with the Web team. When opportunity strikes, your team needs to be ready to go.

4: The right timing

Sometimes getting content to go viral comes down to luck. Your content may happen to go up at just the right time and reach thousands of people. But you can also make this magic more likely by keeping an eye out for the right opportunities.

Learn more tips for getting the right messages to the right students at the right time

Redfern suggests preparing in advance so that when opportunity strikes, "your team is ready and you have the processes in place to make it happen" (Redfern, Inside Higher Ed, 4/7). 

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