List posts are commonplace on the Web that we know.

Each day there are dozens that pass by our way and time and time again we take a few moments to skim through the main details even if we know it to be a waste of time – we can’t get enough of ‘em!

List posts can do wonderful things for your brand due to its ability to spread like wildfire. List posts are an excellent vehicle for starting up a viral craze and your brand is going along for the ride.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at why list posts are an effective form of traffic generation (and community interaction), examples of posts that have really dominated the web, and a strategy for forming your own list posts for a chance at creating something viral.

Here’s what you need to know …

Why the ‘list post’ is highly effective

List posts satisfy our desire for information/entertainment without much time wasted investing in reading through the minutia. The list post allows us to skim through the work and gain the main ideas of the topic in rapid succession in comparison to such posts that would force us to read the brunt of its text in order to pull out snippets of value.

A few other reasons:

  • They’re very easy to create
  • They’re very easy to share
  • They’re very easy to start a discussion

The creative side of producing a list post has been removed other than coming up with a clever idea for the list; you can easily slap one together in just an hour and have something worthwhile for your audience.

The social sides of list posts are ever present since those finding the share can quickly dig into the work and be on their merry way versus investing twice the time into a text-heavy piece.

An interesting element that becomes apparent is that people are quick to chime in their addition to the list which buffers the comment count in a very timely manner which, in turn, gets others active in the discussion.

However, it’s worthwhile to mention that list posts can be seen as a “lazy” form of content creation and often gets abused by bloggers and site owners that bombard their readers with list posts and hold back from posting articles of substance.

David Risley has an interesting post and conversation about why ‘List Posts Suck’ which you may want to spend time with to hear the opposing thoughts about this type of content.

The viral nature of the list post (and its elements)

Take a look at this image that we have put together to highlight some of the main elements that catch ones attention, sucks them in, and has them quickly sharing upon their pass.

You may notice a few things right off the bat which may begin to pique a few ideas for what to utilize in your list post creation:

  • A contrasting title that’s short and extremely catchy
  • Easy access to sharing the post (in multiple areas)
  • A visual format that makes the post easy on the eyes
  • Relevant pictures that play into the post
  • Website features that highlight the top posts (shares, views, comments, etc)

Most of these elements are quite common on most websites but pay very close attention to the topic and the title. Cracked has mastered the art of catching your attention even if it’s not the type of content you’d read on a normal basis.

Likewise, look at the frequent use of list posts on the popular website: Buzzfeed.

Again, the content is very simple in nature but hooks you with a catchy title.

Of course, we also have websites dedicated to list posts:

So, the question that’s beginning to form is “how can I make one of these super popular posts?”

The art of virality (in your niche)

Let’s be frank: there’s no secret recipe to creating viral content.

Internet users change interest within mere moments as they bounce around from topic to topic. What works one day could be seen as stupid the following day. The only way you’ll “hit it” is to keep trying – with a bit of logic and knowledge.

1. Read through the popular post sections of highly entertaining websites like Buzzfeed, Cracked, and Listverse to pull out headline ideas which immediately catch your attention.

2. Examine your records and use keyword tools to find one or two of the most highly debated, sought after, or entertaining elements of your niche.

3. Rework the title from the entertainment site with your topic in mind. Rework it. Do it again. Keep playing with it until it jumps out at you.

4. Compile the best information or pieces of entertainment you can find to populate the list.

5. Ensure your share options are in place, get it published, and start sharing it with as many people as you can for one gigantic initial push.

There are really just two elements at play here:

  • Using the formula’s created by websites that have shown, time and time again, they can make very viral content
  • Crafting the format so it fits with your audience, topic, and industry

Keep these elements in mind next time you sit down to create a list post. Consider having other contribute to the piece to bring their authority and expertise into the mix. Turn a serious topic into a highly-entertaining article (or vice versa). Let the odds play and you may find yourself with a post that defines your website and starts the motion of niche dominance.

A single list post could change the future of your business.