Make content go viral with the STEPPS Model

When I began lectures for my second module during my Post Graduate program, I was very excited for the course, Search and Social media marketing and to be honest, I really didn't understand why.

Looking back now I realise, it was mainly because I could easily relate to the topic and it just seemed like fun. I mean seriously why won't studying social media and how to use it to grow your business be fun?

Viral content triggerOne of the topics that really interested me was how to make your media or online content go viral. These contents can be anything- videos, audio, blog, image, animation, infographic, anything. This article is quite long so bear with me.


In my last blog, I talked about understanding the one percent rule of social media and using that knowledge to strategise better in your social media marketing campaigns.

Having understood the nature of social media audience, in this Follow-up I will be sharing how to use content to capture that relevant audience you are targeting.

So what is the STEPPS model?

According to communications and new media scholar Jonah Berger (2013),   the STEPPS model helps to achieve virality or increases the chances of your content to gain popularity online and be shared, viewed, and commented on as much as possible.

S is social currency

Social currency refers to those issues that make people seem relevant or in the know. (Heinze etal., 2016)

People post about latest developments in their lives, businesses, career, education etc. Or about things happening in their communities, current issues in their societies, political discourse, etc. 

As a business using online content, it is advisable to be socially current not just to remain relevant on the internet, but to demonstrate your understanding of the things that matter most to your target customers/audience.

T is Trigger

viral content stepps model
To trigger someone or something means to cause something to happen. 

Think of how your content can trigger the necessary action or emotion? 

It is a trigger that essentially makes your target audience or customer to act or respond in a certain way to your content. 

At this point, the six emotions would really help you understand how to cause a trigger in your customer or audience.

  • Empathy
  • Surprise
  • Excitement
  • Joy 
  • Sadness
  • Disgust

  • Empathy-Consider if you want to make people feel and understand an experience as if they were the ones experiencing it. When people empathise, it can trigger them to share your content particularly and help it go viral.

  • Surprise- An unexpected angle to a story or video can really get people talking about it for long.
  • Excitement- Remember that people use social media as an escape a lot. Give them contents to relax with and be excited about. 

  • Joy- We all like good stories. Consider things that make people laugh and that makes them happy. 

  • Sadness- They say sad news spread faster than good news. I'm not saying be an ambassador of sad news though (hahaha). But then, some real sad stories can really trigger quick response from people. Sad things happen once in a while but we all don't want to experience sadness.

  • Disgust-Surprisingly, people tend to share things they are disgusted about. For instance, someone posted about how a maid was abusing a child. People were clearly disgusted but they shared it anyway, not for the enjoyment of sharing disgusting content, but as a warning or to let people know to be careful when hiring a maid or childcare.

Back to the STEPPS model

E- is Emotion: 

Emotion is a strong feeling about somebody or something. It can be quite hard to hit people's emotions especially because emotions and how they are displayed are highly subjective. 

This one is tricky. But to get an emotional response from your audience, I strongly recommend honest and straight to the point content. Refer back to the six emotions and choose which one you want to achieve with your content. I personally like joy, brought forward through humor and comedy.😎

P is Public

Remember to share your content and make it public otherwise no one would see it, share nor talk about it. 

Invite friends within your network to view, like and comment. Urge them to invite their friends as well. 

Some marketers use tagging to put their content right in the eyes of their networks but I personally don't recommend this in all situations especially if you do not understand what people like to be associated with. 

If it is a content that would disgust people, or that is offensive, you might want to seek their consent before tagging. 

However, people now have a choice to share or not to share tagged content, so, you might as well inform them that they've been tagged in your post (if it is a controversial content). 

P is Practical value

What's the practical value of your content? What would your audience or target customer take from it and how would it impact on their lives? 

Some contents have been described as a waste of time by an audience. You read comments on such contents like 'well, I will never get back this last two minutes wasted on this page"
viral content
Image: Acura MIS

You do not want to be the one dishing out a time wasting content so, you might as well weigh the value of your content while thinking about what you hope to achieve whether to inform, educate, sell, promote, or share knowledge. 

I, for instance, use my content to share knowledge. (and I hope you find them useful) 😉

Lastly, S is story

Build a storyline around your content. It just makes it easier to read or view isn't it?
Well, I hope I have been able to share something useful that would help in your business today. 

Until next time, keep the passion for what you do alive because that's what drives me to do more. 

Drop any questions you have in the comment section and subscribe at the top of the page for my latest updates. ☝

Hauwa Abubakar


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