Quick and Dirty Viral Content Types You Probably Ignore

Tadeusz Szewczyk
by Tadeusz Szewczyk | Last Updated May. 28th, 2015 0 COMMENTS



While content marketers swear that you need so called long form content the social Web proves them wrong by

spreading tiny information chunks you can come up with quickly.

How to create text images, animated gifs and other memes that carry your message.


Essays on cats vs cat pics

Yeah, I really enjoy reading essays – on paper. Indeed I read a book 500 pages strong every second week as long as it’s entertaining. I do it off screen and after work. On the Web I’m quick just like everybody else. I skim pages, scan content and only read a few words here and there.

I want quick solutions, insights or entertaining tidbits. In short memes as in smallest information carrying units. I’m not the only one. User testing has proven that again and again. Thus some types of content just fit the Web better than others.

  • text images
  • comics
  • animated gifs
  • selfies

are just some of the most common type of “content” that spreads like wild fire for different reasons. What they’ve got in common is that they are small and portable. They are

  • quick to digest
  • easy to replicate
  • comparatively small in (file) size.

Initially the word meme has been used by obscure linguists, activists and military strategists (see “meme warfare”). On the modern Web it’s widely used for anything that is most often

  • entertaining
  • funny
  • intriguing

and spreads virally over the Intertubes. Some types of memes are more successful than others. That’s why I picked the four examples from above to show the ones more prone for wider acclaim.


Why do text images spread that well? It’s not just Tumblr and Pinterest although those two sites have certainly helped to establish “picture quotes” as one of the most popular online memes. Sure, they’re readable almost at once with short lines and large uppercase letters in most cases. That’s not all though.

Such text images often feature quotes by some of the most respected personalities from human history. These are often words of distilled true wisdom. They are often figures of speech (like metaphors or oxymorons) that sound very intriguing. Unlike retyped quotes in HTML they have some integrity as you can’t simply change the words by copy and pasting.

You can use image quotes as posters, postcards or t-shirts. Thus there is a big market by now for those who design and print them. Sites like Behappy.me are not the exception. This quote by Maya Angelou I shared on Pinterest a while ago got over a 500k “impressions” and more than 4000 repins. My quotes board is my most popular one despite me pinning more on other boards.


There are plenty of free tools that let you type in a quote and spit out a ready-made image. Ideally you use a photo editor, there are a lot free ones too so that your quote does not look like many other quotes. I use Paint.NET on Windows. There are very advanced online tools like Sumo Paint too.


Comics are short and funny. You can put complex insights into a few pictures and speech bubbles. Also they have been always popular even in print. On the Web they have become even more widely viewed because again, it’s often just image to share that contains a whole story or sophisticated message.

Ideally the images have some intrinsic aesthetic value but I’ve often seen rather clumsy comics become widely shared just because of their funny or on point message. There are people who make a living online by simply drawing humorous comics for the Web.

In the tech realm we have seen many successful comics over the years. The Joy of Tech is one of the most popular along with Dilbert facing common pitfalls of the modern office lifestyle. In marketing and specifically content marketing we have seen many attempts of using comics but the success has been limited until now. Apparently marketers are still too serious to create funny comics.



Animated gifs are like videos for the fast and furious. Most people do not have the time to watch whole videos online, especially at work. Thus animated gifs often feature the funniest, strangest or most outrageous scenes from videos. This might be a fat cat jumping from space, or a parkour professional doing some gravity defying stunt.

In many cases the animation shows just a scene from a movie with or without a subtitle. It may be as simple as a rare facial expression. People enjoy viewing such animations again and again because they often feature funny or incredible things.

Some movies get promoted by using animated gifs in recent years. It works find on Tumblr for sure where I have watched movie scenes from movies I would have otherwise never noticed or cared about. The animation is so short that before you can move you’ve already seen it and laughed. There are tools that let you create animated gifs out of anything.


Selfies are often low quality images made from phones at the toilet or in other unfavorable conditions. They feature “authentic” people in all kinds of poses and situations. Most selfies are the exact opposite of the advertising and movie images we are fed all the time. There is some raw imperfection in them.

Even superstars and celebrities post selfies to prove they look good or sexy for real.

Otherwise you might assume it’s just Photoshop and the excellent work of a professional photographer. Selfies have a touch of intimacy. It’s not just the authenticity of looking into a mirror beside your toilet seat. Selfies make loneliness of modern “singles” bearable. You get yourself out there and other people approve of you.

To create such quick and dirty self-portraits all you need is a mobile phone with a camera and a mirror. You can make a selfie without a mirror too, I’ve been doing that before the term has been coined. You may need a few attempts then because it’s hard to assess whether your face or whichever body part you want pictured¬† is still visible or not.

In case you want make your product appear more authentic encourage people to make selfies

while holding it in their hand and dressed in it. So you don’t even have to make blurry pictures of your private parts yourself. You can ask your customers and supporters to do so. They probably already do. Finding out whether they do it may be as simple as asking them on Facebook, Twitter or wherever you socialize online.

You probably think product selfies are just about fashion or beauty products and exhibitionists.

Well, here is an example from Google+ where acclaimed search expert David Amerland made people photograph his book on arrival. While many of the images do not feature the person who shoots it the authenticity transfer is still there.

* The “viral content” illustration has been created by the team of Freepik.com