What does ‘going viral’ mean and how does it work?

Social media has now become integral part of our lives – we swipe, click, scroll, like and share posts with our friends and family every day. It is this urge to share it with followers and those we know that creates content that might grow in popularity and considered ‘viral’.

What’s ‘viral’ and how does it work?

Becoming ‘viral’ on the internet means that a piece of news, an image or a video has become incredibly popular in just a matter of hours or days by being shared from thousands (sometimes even millions) of people on social media. Due to its popularity, ‘viral’ content is often picked up by online news channels and event gets mentioned on TV.  This only serves to increase its virality.

‘Viral’ is often used as a strategy in marketing campaigns by brands to promote their products and services. It works by consumers spreading information about a product or service with other people on their social networks.

Usually viral content has a short-lifespan, it could be talked about for only days or a few months at best.

Examples of content/ campaigns that have gone viral

Most recently, news broke that a picture of an egg has become the most liked image on social media platform Instagram, beating the record of reality TV star Kylie Jenner. The picture, posted by Instagram account @world_record_egg, has more than 48 million likes to date, causing it to achieve global fame and driving conversations around social media.

The #10yearchallenge is another example of viral content. Recently, celebrities started posting pictures of themselves from 10 years ago, highlighting how they have changed in a decade. It didn’t take long for their fans to follow into their footsteps, and now you can see #10yearchallenge photos on almost every Instagram account.

What are the key ingredients for creating ‘viral’ content?

‘Going viral’ is not just a matter of luck but is a result of developing strategic marketing and communication campaigns that create powerful emotional experiences for the consumer of the content. The key elements marketing professionals adhere to, in order to make sure their content/ campaign gets shared, include:

  • Using the right platform – for example, if you’re sharing news the best platform would be Twitter, and if it’s a video or an image – Instagram
  • Knowing your audience – consider whether the people that follow you on social media would be the right audience for your content. If not, you should probably consider putting some paid behind it
  • Having a purpose – most viral social media campaigns are either entertaining or informative
  • Evoke emotion – one of the best ways to gain audience interest using social media campaigns is by evoking emotions that they can relate to
  • Think about the timing – posting and sharing your content at the right time is key if you want to get those likes and shares.

Do you have any questions around ‘viral’ content and how to make it work? Let us know in the comments below or by tweeting us at @JustAskGemalto.