We’re Going Viral!

By July 9, 2019 No Comments
Social media marketing: Going Viral

You know those words whose meaning changes completely depending on the context that they are used? Well “viral”, derived from the word ‘virus’, is one of them. In medical terms, a virus is horrible is greatly avoided at all costs, but in marketing, it’s a dream come true for most, if not all brands. However, in all honesty, just because content CAN go viral doesn’t mean it WILL. Let me explain.

With the immeasurable content being thrown on the internet, standing out can seem like a herculean task. Content becomes viral either when purposefully and intentionally done, or by sheer accident. In 2010 Old Spice, a brand that specializes in men’s hygiene products created a series of epic, unique and pretty memorable campaigns for their body wash. The first one being dubbed “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” was a mega hit! And the outcome? More than 56 million views to date on YouTube, becoming quite the case study in marketing. On the other hand, a video of a dad ‘chatting’ with his son, recently went viral simply because it is absolutely adorable! So adorable that it got featured on CNN. Two different videos with different intentions, sharing a similar outcome – they both enjoyed internet success.

Why should your brand care about going viral?

Creating wildly shared content (videos, images, lists, case studies, etc.) translates directly into increasing your brand visibility, brand authority, social media follower-ship, and industry leadership.

We share content for 8 major reasons, mainly to:

  • Promote a product
  • Socialize over common interests
  • Promote a good cause
  • FOMO (the Fear of Missing Out)
  • Share something about ourselves
  • Demonstrate authority on certain topics or fields
  • Have bragging rights
  • Gain opinions and information from friends, colleagues or experts

How to measure virality on social media platforms


According to Facebook, virality is “the number of people who create a story from your post as a percentage of the number of people who see it.”  For example, if you share a video to your 1,000 friends who see it and only 50 like or share it, this video won’t be considered viral. However, if at least half of the group you sent the video to see and interact (likes, shares and comments) with it, its virality or viral percentage is much higher.


The first hour after posting content on Instagram is the most crucial. Videos with 100,000+ likes, views and thousands of comments (They don’t have to happen simultaneously) will be considered viral if the account posting it has only a few hundred or a few thousand followers.


A few years ago, a video gaining 1M+ views used to be viral. Now, digital gurus claim that a video must amass 5M+ views within 3-5 days or less to achieve viral status. I must say though, these numbers depend on whether you’re looking at it from a global or local point of view.


A viral Tweet is one that earns retweets for hours, even days after posting. This means that the rate of retweets should actually accelerate after a few hours, rather than slowing down or stopping completely.

So, what’s the secret sauce behind going viral?

Social media marketing: Going Viral
  1. Honest and emotion-triggering content

Big brands splurge millions on creating content in hopes of it going viral forgetting that ads are purely promotional- meaning they rarely have humanistic qualities. These ads tend to be superficial and of self-praise and as a result, we just can’t relate. Think about it, you are more likely to share content if you can personally relate to it. Take for instance platforms like Goalcast and Humans of New York (HONY) that do exactly this and their numbers tend to run into the thousands and sometimes millions.

  1. Advertise for Attention

As a brand, you MUST stand out and make your audience pay attention to YOU. I mean, be like The Dollar Shave Club who have the guts to say that their blades are ‘fudging’ great. We probably wouldn’t advise on cursing though -unless it works for your brand.

  1. A level of practicality

Popular content doesn’t have to be life-changing per se, but it does need to add value to those consuming it. ‘Life hacks’ are one of the most shareable contents on the internet. In fact, there are sites simply dedicated to practically showing people how to do get things done or creative ways of doing, otherwise simple tasks.

  1. Pushing those buttons!

Another tip that goes hand-in-hand with advertising for attention. Topics that touch on the taboo, the remarkable, the unusual, the outrageous and secrets (both discovered and undiscovered) are more likely to get engagement and have an impact on awareness. Just ask the man who sparked off the ‘like a rat on de highway’ craze in Kenya. As much it is a serious offense in the eyes of the law, Kenyans just couldn’t get enough of the clip. Then there are brands like Nike, who usually go against the grain and support those who are bold.

Of course, when going in this direction you should pay a lot of attention to context.

  1. Format matters

Finally, the format of the content that you’re constantly putting out could go a long way in raking in those shares, likes and comments. A recent study by Moz reveals the top performing content types. Basically, the following rank very highly;

  • ‘List’ posts
  • Quizzes
  • ‘Why’ posts
  • ‘How’ to post s
  • Info-graphics
  • Videos

In terms of shareability, list posts and videos do very well.

To sum it up…

Ultimately, creating viral content requires extensive creativity, boldness and the right set of marketing ingredients in the right amounts. Dare to try? All the best 😉

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