Factors that support viral content

Viral marketing has changed the way that businesses or people promote themselves online. Anything from video clips, e-books, or images can be used to virally promote - or destroy - a brand. Viral marketing campaigns have struck particular success on social media platforms and YouTube. 

Take, for example, You-tuber Jenna Marbles. Back in 2010, she posted her first video: “How to Trick People Into Thinking You’re Good Looking.” The YouTube audience, although not very size-able at that time, blew up with excitement. Within several hours, her video went viral, and today it has almost 70 million views.

Three years later, in one of her videos, Jenna looked back at her viral success that jump-started her career by helping her get acting roles, her own radio show, and eventually becoming a household name and the Queen of YouTube.

The thing that, in her opinion, made her video an instant success, was going against the trend of looking spotless that was especially domineering at that time, and appealing to a certain emotion.

Jenna Marbles is proof that anyone with access to the Internet can quickly rise to fame. If the content you are posting is striking enough, it has the potential to go viral.

The same goes for what other people are saying about you. Viral marketing can be a huge asset (or detriment, depending on which side of the coin you are on) to managing your reputation online. Understanding how viral marketing works can help you effectively share your message or products with the masses. 

This blog post will cover:

The state of viral marketing today

With the rapid growth of the influence of social media platforms, viral, or word-of-mouth marketing, has gained popularity.

According to statistics:

  • 54% of people name viral marketing as the main driving force in helping them make purchase decisions
  • 49% of people believe that online viral messages are highly credible
  • 66% of respondents also think that viral marketing efforts of a brand can be very helpful

Most people agree that viral marketing is an effective approach to spreading your message. But even if you have a following of several millions of people, you can't simply expect any post will go viral.

Not every message has the necessary characteristics.

Characteristics of a viral post

Here’s what you need to know about a viral post:

  • Universal appeal. Everyone can relate to a viral message. That’s what happened with Jenna’s above-mentioned viral video – she addressed a situation that all of us have been in – self-criticism – but in a very humorous way.
  • Laconism. A viral message is brief and concise. Because it is usually short, it can be hard to choose the right words that will appeal to the necessary emotion.
  • Call-to-action. The viral message is created with a specific purpose – to inspire people to share the message as quickly as possible.

As a result, before creating viral content, a brand should be well-aware of the factors that support viral content and push it forward to outcompete other content online.

What are these factors?

Let’s take a look.

Factors that support viral content

1. Find the right fit

Many brands make a common mistake of targeting all social media platforms in order to achieve viral success.

In reality, however, viral messages don’t necessarily target all audiences, and not all content is a good fit for all social media platforms.

Thus, before you launch your viral marketing campaign, you must determine which social media platform fits best. You can do it by:

  • Taking a look at the gender/age distribution of a certain social media platform.
  • Analyzing your own audience on social media.

For instance, on Twitter, the male audience dominates over the female audience (66% and 34% respectively), with several age groups being the most active on this platform:

twitter age groups

Who do you want to target? Is your target audience persona for your viral marketing campaign in line with your existing audience on a certain platform?

You can answer these questions by going to the Analytics bar on any given social media platform. On Facebook, for instance, you can see all the information on gender, age, location, language, and activity time:

facebook activity

Social media analytics tools can also help you determine the best content type for a marketing campaign, schedule your posts, and measure metrics and statistics.

2. Create the right content

People will naturally want to share high-quality content. If your content isn't engaging, interesting, or helpful, there is no way it will ever go viral. 

Learn what types of content are best suited for your audience. Do they prefer videos, infographics, photos, memes, or ebooks? Make sure to always present your message in a way that will be easily consumed by your target audience. That will make promotion that much easier and it will have a greater chance of becoming a viral post. 

3. Hashtag it!

Though it may look small and unnecessary, a hashtag is actually a very potent tool to give a push to your viral marketing campaign. The right use of hashtags has helped many startups to stand out and obtain viral success. 

On Twitter, the list of top hashtags is updated every day. These hashtags are the routes to the viral content that’s shared the most during a certain day. Watching the hashtags will help you stay on top of current trends and will increase the chances of your content obtaining viral success.

4. Reward your audience

One of the most important characteristics of a viral message is that it should bring value to the audience that will spread this message further.

Thus, to increase the chances that the target audience will share your viral content, have them participate in creating it and reward them for their contribution.

This is exactly what Starbucks did in 2014 with its #WhiteCupChallenge. They invited all their fans to come up with creative designs for their white cup and then share their ideas on social media.

At the end of the challenge, Starbucks picked the winner out of millions of social media posts, helping the woman that won this challenge start her career in design:

Starbucks white cup challenge

User-generated content has the best performance, when it comes to viral marketing, as people are more interested in sharing their own experiences with others. The formula is simple: your users help you go viral, and you reward them in return.


We covered many examples of viral success in this article, but they share one thing.

They’re not intrusive.

Although people often associate viral messages as intrusive, in reality, however, they shouldn’t provoke repulsion. Rather, viral messages should appeal to positive emotions.

Remembering this together with our tips will help you understand viral marketing better and create content that will help you obtain viral success.

Viral content FAQs

What are the characteristics of a viral post?

A viral post must contain the following three things. Universal appeal. Brief. Contain a call-to-action.

What factors support viral content?

The following factors affect whether or not your content will go viral. Where you post your content. The quality of your content. The hashtags you use in your posts. Incentives for audience engagement.

How do you decide which social media platforms to use for your brand?

You don't have to post on every social media platform for your posts to go viral. Instead, take a look at the gender/age distribution of a certain social media platform and analyze your own audience on social media.

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