Very little online content goes viral without deliberate planning. If you're trying to get your content to "spark" and go viral, it really helps to have a strong understanding of what kind of content tends to go viral.
Of course, nobody can accurately predict what will go viral, nor can they make something go viral 100% of the time. But by understanding what kind of content tends to go viral, you stand a much better chance of creating something that will be shared.
Here are a few of the main attributes of things that tend to go viral.
It's Human Nature
It's rare that a factual video goes viral. Instead, it's usually human interest videos that capture the public imagination. The singing homeless man on the street; the baby laughing at something senseless; An incredible display of guitar prowess.
Strong Emotional Content
The more emotions you can arouse in your audience, the better. Let's take one of the world's most viewed videos, the "Charlie Bit my Finger" video. The video features a baby whose brother bit his finger; he sits there laughing and complaining at the same time. This video has an astounding 367 million views at the time of this writing. That's more than the population of the United States! One of the main reasons this video took off so strongly is because of how palpable the emotions were in the video. The watcher can almost "follow along" with the baby's emotions and also experience the joy of playing with a baby brother.
Videos That Provide Unique Information
Another type of content that does really well are videos that are uniquely informational. The key here is that the videos really have to provide content that can't be found anywhere else. For example, one video that went viral featured a science professor showing how to light a candle without ever touching the wick. A content video that went viral during the 2008 election was a video of a dozen famous actors all asking people to vote (that was a new idea at the time - don't try it nowadays). Informational videos work in many different industries, but the most important thing is that there's something truly unique to them.
Content That Appeals to Specific Groups of People
Content that tends to appeal to specific groups of people tends to do very well if it has strong emotional or informational content. For example, political videos that are either informational or emotional can go viral just by being passed among a party's members. New food laws, something which may be seen as boring, could be very interesting to vegans if it affects the foods they'll be able to purchase. A video about the new laws could really take off among that specific community.
These are some of the factors that go into determining whether or not a video goes viral. At the end of the day, a video going viral really means that a lot of people want to pass on your content. The key, as with many other things in business, is to just create something so amazing that people want to share it.
Focus on creating awesome content that helps, entertains or inspires the people who need it most.