How to go viral on social media?

iPhone image of social media apps on home screen

Nowadays, it's more important than ever to stand out on the digital stage.

Brands develop annual strategies, and groups of creatives huddle together to work out the best way to boost campaign performance. Sometimes, though, it's as simple as getting the timing right. Our marketing expert's first experience of virality happened in 2013. He has put together his account, and set the scene very nicely below. Read on to find out how he went viral.

Timing or cultural relevance
If only it was as easy as following a blog post formula right? Well, if it’s any consolation, at the time of writing this I’ve had the blessing of going viral 3 times, 2 of which I will be explaining. “Going viral” is really an anomaly, but with that said I will share with you guys 3 common denominators in what made my content garner about a million impressions on social media.

The hit grime song “German Whip” was all over the radio with the chorus engraved in everyone’s brains; “see man driving a German whip, blacked out windows leaning back”. My Grandma had just pulled into her driveway in her BMW, which is when it hit me. I quickly took a snapchat of her getting out of the car, and added the caption “see nan driving a German whip”. So I had a paradied a hit song at the time which brings me onto my next point.

Correct audience
This hadn’t been my intention in sending (as at the time I just thought it was funny), but one of my friends who I had sent the snap to happened to know people working at Lad Bible and forwarded it on. That was when the madness really started; I saw the post go from Lad Bible, to SBTV (where the music video had been released) and then I even saw the people behind the song sharing a photo of my lovely Grandma! This photo had been posted and reposted by huge platforms, with a collective following of easily over 500k. I guess the big question is this, why? How did we get to the point where this image had collected over 100,000 impressions?

Relatable content
What do we get when we combine perfectly timed content into the hands of the correct audience – relatable content! If you look at meme culture today, our Instagram feeds are bombarded with blocks of text telling you something about yourself/ people around you/ politics/ relationships/ anything, and 9/10 it’s something you already know. That’s what created the humour, the text is a nuanced concept that your brain would lead you to believe “omg it’s like you read my mind”. Most of the viral media we see today hits home instantly, we know what it’s about and we can relate to the content. Pushing that content to a wider audience by default will increase your chances of it being relatable to more people.

It happened again! Same formula!
Fast forward to 2019, some of you might remember a very popular documentary “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened”. There were definitely some moments in the Netflix special that were heavily memed, and I joined in. I had responded via ‘Quote Tweet’ to one of the stars of the show getting their own documentary. The post received a reasonable response by my normal following, but was then boosted by a friend of mine doing well in the music world, he retweeted and induced a lot of traction. Here’s the tweet – if you get it you get it, if you don’t, don’t worry about it.

Humour aside, both these experiences of #ViralFame unintentionally followed the same criteria. They were posted in the height of their cultural relevance, they were simple and resonated with a large number of the people who saw it. They were also put in front of audiences that could then promote it further.

As simple as that
So to summarise, your business content going viral (in a positive way) is probably the best thing you can do for your marketing. It is literally a term for a stupidly heightened state of engagement – who doesn’t want that for their service/ product. The viral phenomenon is also the reason behind all these big brands now giving themselves a human voice with a more irreverent tone. The Wendy’s Twitter account is a great example of this. The criteria outlined in this blog may not be a fool-proof formula for viral content, but when applied correctly will definitely give you a fighting chance!

Thanks to our marketing expert for sharing his insights on his own viral experiences. Are you keen to go viral on social media? We’ve crafted a wide range of paid and organic social campaigns for our clients over the years. Get in touch with us to find out how we can increase your engagement and overall performance through high quality design and animated content.

How to go viral on social media?

Gordon Barry

31 December 2021

3 minutes read