Going viral on social media is easier said than done. It takes time, effort, and willingness to experiment. Unless you’re extremely lucky and achieve overnight success, you’ll need to put the work in.
Keep reading for a breakdown of what going viral means, how to go viral, and some words of wisdom from a popular content creator.
What does going viral mean?
‘How to go viral’ is a very different thing in 2023 than it was around the birth of social media. Back in the mid-2000s, a viral video was usually something goofy and random on YouTube – there are countless millennials who can recite a bunch of off-the-wall llama cartoons by heart.
Today, going viral usually means a video – sometimes a picture or story – spreading across the internet. Nine times out of ten, it does so via social media platforms. Viral content can be relatable, taboo, myth-busting, or just downright weird; if it connects with people and gets them to spread it, it stands a chance of going viral.
How many views do you need to go viral?
There’s no strict definition for how many views you need to go viral. However, most people – and social media platforms – would define going viral as achieving more than five million views on one video within a week.
Other interpretations are less… scary. Some define going viral as: every time someone views or engages with your content, they share it and get at least one other person to do the same. On average. Still, these are massive goals. How do you make it happen?
How do you make a post go viral?
There’s not one watertight method for going viral. Some of the biggest hits are just pure luck, while others are carefully crafted. Keep reading for our top tips on how to go viral, tying everything together with some advice from seasoned content creator Los Vídeos de Félix.
How to go viral: 10 top tips
- Research the best kinds of video formats
- Keep on top of trends
- Focus on a specific niche
- Use keywords in your captions, hashtags and descriptions
- Get help from established influencers
- Create relatable content
- Keep it short and sweet
- Post content regularly and consistently
- Spread yourself across all platforms
- Consider platforms like Reddit
Let’s get into it!
1. Research the best kinds of video formats
Certain video formats are more likely to go viral than others. Check out the below for some inspiration.
- How-to videos: How-tos and tutorials crush it on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and anywhere else you can think of. Why? People want to learn stuff. This can be anything from makeup hacks to woodwork walkthroughs.
- ‘Did you know?’ videos: Similar to How-to videos, these little gems give viewers something new. It could be the origin of a popular dish, a long-mispronounced word, or even a little-known fact about a celebrity. These bite-sized truth parcels work a treat on platforms like TikTok, where almost half of all content discovery is driven by the need to ‘learn something new.’
- ‘What happens next’ videos: We all scroll. You can grab viewers’ attention with a neat transformation video – hook them in with a before-and-after video of your home decor, food, crazy haircut or something equally intriguing.
- Videos you can’t script: Coincidences, unfortunate timing, crazy natural events – it’s all got viral potential. If you’ve got content on your mind, keep your phone handy and be prepared to shoot at a second’s notice. Otherwise, you’ll miss moments like this.
@emmmmahhhh she just wanted her pasty #seagull #devon #uk #pasty ♬ original sound - emma
2. Keep on top of trends
Newsworthy trends, TikTok challenges, hashtags that are popping off. Anything and everything – keeping on top of it all is half the battle!
The ‘Trending’ sections on social media platforms are super useful, helping you keep your finger on the pulse and deliver your hot take before anyone else. These trends often get swamped with opinions and quality content – consider setting up Google Alerts or something similar, so you never miss the boat.
Trendwatching goes beyond the news agenda, though. The first step is keeping an eye out for content trends, new memes, popular songs and more. The real work comes afterward, though – you’ve got to jump on those trends early and deliver the best content before anyone else!
3. Focus on a specific niche
If someone says, ‘Make me go viral,’ they’re probably talking about the biggest of the big. They’re thinking Charlie Bit My Finger. Keyboard Cat. The touchstones of early viral culture that appealed to everyone.
The trouble with blowing up like that is the success rate is so random and hard to nail down – the more ‘general’ content is, the more difficult it is to make an impact.
For that reason, it can help to find a specific niche. You’ll discover dedicated fanbases in every corner of these platforms. There's BookTok, Metal Twitter, #fitnessjouney… tapping into these passionate communities and going viral there is somewhat easier, as you have an audience to work with. You know what they like!
4. Use keywords in your captions, hashtags and descriptions
Search engines and social media platforms use keywords to figure out what viewers want to watch. You can browse manually to get a feel, or use a sophisticated keyword explorer like Ahrefs. Here’s how to use keywords in:
- Captions: This is less to do with search engines and more with scrolling. Using the relevant keywords in your captions will give viewers an instant snapshot of what you’re offering.
- Hashtags: Trending and community hashtags can boost your content. Research hashtags wisely and don’t get spammy with them – only the relevant phrases should make the cut.
- Descriptions: Include relevant keywords in the title and description, but again, avoid falling down the spam hole. Don’t squeeze unconnected words in for the sake of it.
5. Get help from established influencers
This is easier said than done – you can’t just make Zach King give you a shoutout. However, features like Instagram’s Remix and TikTok’s Duets and Stitches allow you to repurpose bigger creators’ content within the context of your video.
You can use these tools to pique the interest of larger audiences, or even the creator themselves! If you manage to strike up a conversation with one of the big dogs, perhaps don't ask for a collab straight away. Treat it like a regular online friendship; when you do ask them for a helping hand, they’ll be more likely to agree.
6. Create relatable content
Plan your content but don’t sound scripted. It's a tough one to balance. Viral content often needs a structure, even if it’s something like: Person walks across hallway, slips on banana peel, Mario Kart music starts playing.
Tell stories and appeal to people’s emotions. Talk to your friends or colleagues. What makes them laugh, click, share, feel and follow? You can create random spurts of content and hope for the best, but if you want to know how to go viral, figure out the why.
One of many factors that help draw people in is music. If the tunes are banging and fit the mood, they’re more likely to resonate with an audience. At Epidemic Sound, we have more than 40,000 royalty-free tracks to choose from – we’re sure you’ll find what you’re looking for.
7. Keep it short and sweet
Stick to the sacred rule: ‘Don’t bore us, get to the chorus.’ Keep it snappy. Some of the algorithms used by social media platforms boost clips that have a high completion rate – after all, it’s in their best interests to push content that people will actually watch all the way through.
Experiment with video editing, hit the viewer with a hook early on and don’t lose their attention. Try sticking between fifteen and thirty seconds if you’re aiming for a time limit – it’s short enough to sit through, but long enough to build a narrative.
8. Post content regularly and consistently
Social media platforms’ algorithms often reward creators who post regularly and consistently. Set yourself a schedule – or even start a content calendar – and let the algorithm know you’re active. Engage with viewers. Like their comments, reply to their feedback, take their criticism on board.
9. Spread yourself across all platforms
Something might go viral on Snapchat, but it just doesn’t land on Instagram. Learning how to go viral on TikTok or Lemon8 will have different nuances and results than, say, if you’re working out how to go viral on YouTube.
And that’s fine. It’s a learning curve, constantly battling with an ebb and flow of trends from platform to platform. But make sure you cover all bases – reposting your content on each platform means you’ll have a solid opportunity.
10. Consider platforms like Reddit
Content often goes viral after being featured on Reddit's front page. Be careful, though. You can't just turn up on Reddit and post your video on day one – people won’t take kindly to it, as they may think you’re taking advantage of the community.
Join different subreddits, get a handle on what the people there like, and become an active part of that group. When the time comes to post your content, you’ll be seen as a valued member posting something cool rather than someone looking for fifteen minutes of fame.
To finish things off, let’s check in with content creator Los Vídeos de Félix. Félix has gained hundreds of thousands of subscribers since joining YouTube in 2006, so we asked him for his advice on how to go viral.
“All these years of creating content on YouTube, interacting with viewers and learning the tricks of the trade have taught me one thing: there really isn’t a single magic formula for making a video go viral,” he told us.
“In my experience, it’s important to create content that adds value for the audience, either in the form of knowledge, learning, or entertainment. There are so many ways to deliver the same idea!
“That value still has to be wrapped up in a dynamic, entertaining package – it needs to catch the viewer’s attention, so they don’t get bored and leave for the next video. On top of all this, there’s a small element of luck in hoping that the algorithm likes us!”
So there you have it. With our top 10 tips and Félix’s advice fresh in your mind, you’ve learned the basics of how to go viral. But that’s just the start. Get out there and create!
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