8 Smart Ways to Go Viral

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If you are here, yes, listicles still work.

Creating listicles is just one of the numerous ways to draw your readers to the page. At the “Pitch Session: How Can I Make My Story Go Viral?” on Thursday, S. Mitra Kalita of Quartz, Melissa Bell of Vox.com and Rubina Madan Fillion of The Wall Street Journal shared great tips about how to write better headlines and and how to tailor your coverage to reach for more audience.

Check out the listicle below for things to keep in mind when creating a clicking boost for your story.

1. Build the curiosity gap.

There’s one key difference between kids who excel at math and those who don’t, Quartz

What’s the key difference? People always want to know what they don’t know yet. When writing a headline, don’t reveal all the content of your story and keep readers curious.

2. Find the hook to the hot issues, but seek a special angle.

The cold, hard truth about the ice bucket challenge, Quartz

There is advantage and disadvantage covering hot topics. If you can tell the story from a different angle, that will attract a lot of eyeballs.

3. Know your audience.

Bill Gates’s Favorite Business Book, The Wall Street Journal

Did you know that Bill Gates borrowed his favorite business book from Warren Buffett? This story might be of no interest for many people, but not for readers of The Wall Street Journal. For them, the fact that both billionaires recommend this book is priceless.

4. Use striking numbers in your headline.

I went $230,000 into debt to become a doctor in America, Quartz

Anecdotal headlines are not usual, but in this case, it works because of the power of the number.

5. Look for stories with universal appeal.

10 Things to Do in the Morning That Will Start Your Day Off Right, RantChic.com

Productivity is one of the things that appeals to almost everyone, WSJ’s Fillion said. Look for a story that everyone cares about!

6. People like tangible objects.

This pizza franchise is banking on today’s elections in Kenya being peaceful, Quartz

Big, abstract topics drive people away. Mentioning “pizza” here really makes the story more relatable to average Americans and make them care a little bit more about what’s going on in Kenya.

7. Timing matters.

12 things white people can do now because of Ferguson, Quartz

It matters when you post. What people want to read on their way to work is different than what they want after a relaxing shower. According to Quartz’s Kalita, this story did well partly because it was posted several days after the Ferguson shooting — about the time when people stopped being outraged and start reflecting on the issue.

8. Content is king.

The US needs to retire daylight savings and just have two time zones—one hour apart, Quartz

No trick-play here with the headline, because the idea itself is “crazy enough.” So the bottom line here is: If the content is good, the story will stand out.