Virality is one of the intangibles of internet marketing. It’s difficult to achieve because it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what causes some web content to become sharing phenomenons. Virality is most often defined as online content that’s shared in high volume during a short period of time. It doesn’t have a long shelf-life or need to convey revolutionary ideas.

Examples of viral content

In fact, many things that go viral in its truest sense – being viewed millions or even billions of times within a short time span – are somewhat silly.

Take the “Charlie bit my finger” video. Since it was shared on YouTube in 2007, the clip has been watched by 530 million people. PSY’s Gangnam Style video has racked up 1.6 billion views since it was published in July 2012. Even Rebecca Black’s low budget music video, Friday, received 54 million views during its fifteen minutes of viral fame.

What’s virality worth?

While it’s hard to put a price tag on virality, marketers can imagine the value of 1 million plus video views, hundreds of blog posts, reviews and discussions as well as 8,000 Tweets, which is what one viral video raked in.

How to create viral videos

Harvard Business School’s Assistant Professor Thales S. Teixeira conducted experiments to determine what is at the heart of video content that goes viral. Teixeira asserts that viewers are likely to push digital content into virality when they are presented with something that’s surprising and attention-grabbing, delivers continuous moments of joy and makes them look good when they share it (because their family, friends and social networks will also be surprised and entertained).

Although there’s no sure-fire way to hit that sweet spot, Teixeira offers four steps for creating viral-quality content.

1. Attract viewers’ attention.

2. Retain it.

3. Get them to share content.

4. Persuade viewers.