Apr 24, 2019

If we told you we had the secret formula for “going viral”, you may not believe us, and you may even be right in doing so. But here’s what you may find easier to believe (and you should) – neither does anyone else.

Wait! Don’t close this tab just yet.

We have something almost as good as the formula.

A series of research based on the best viral videos of all time and of the past few months, to tell you exactly what these videos that ‘go viral’ all have in common.


If you would like to get your hands on the best tools to ensure that your campaigns are a success, click here.

Keep reading to understand what it takes to create a viral post!

Definition of Going Viral

The term ‘going viral’ comes from the medical term ‘virus’ which refers to something small that spreads infection from one living being to another. Exactly like that, a person who has been infected by a video (here the infection is replaced by emotion: happiness, sadness, anger, etc), will share the video with others, therefore, spreading it to other people.

In order to go viral, one does not have to attain a particular number of likes, shares, comments, etc. Going viral is also a very relative concept. For example, if a celebrity posts something and it gets shared thousands of times, that is a mundane thing for the celebrity as it happens every day. But if you or I post something and it got shared thousands of times, that can be considered as our post going viral.


How does a video go viral?

A video goes viral when multiple people share it on their personal social media profiles. It is not restricted to any one social media platform. A video can go viral on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram etc. The more people share a video the more viral it becomes

It is now so much easier for a video to go viral thanks to the power of social media. We are all on multiple social media platforms, and when we see something that we like on it, we have all clicked the share button and shared the post with our followers and friends.

Note: It is not just videos that go viral. Any form of content can go viral. These include image posts, memes, blog posts, a photo, animation, or even a person.

How to go viral

There is no fixed formula for going viral, but based on our research, here are some aspects we noticed :

Image of checklist

  • Timeliness
  • Visual appeal
  • Emotion appeal
  • Informational value
  • Humor quotient
  • Brand recall
  • Influencers and advocacy
  • Sharability /DIY-ability
  • Uniqueness
  • Subtlety

A breakdown of the checklist:


Keep up with the times! The idea behind incorporating current events or trends into your campaigns is that it increases the chances of it being found when people search for the current event or trend online. If your content aligns with a current event or current trend you get to capitalize on its popularity to get eyes on your brand’s products and services.

Here are some factors to consider while creating content based on current events and trends:

  1. Do not create offensive content based on negative events or tragedies.
  2. Keep it visual, most of the effort must be on ensuring that the visuals amplify your content or message
  3. Keep it light-hearted, funny, and/or entertaining.

A few great places to discover the latest trends are Google News, Google Trends, Facebook, and Twitter trending.

Oreo’s ‘Dunk in the Dark’ tweet during the 2013 Superbowl power cut is one that will go down in history as one of the best-timed campaigns that went viral.


Check out this article by the Huffington Post to find out what happened and why it worked:

1. Visual

There is no single format of content that is bound to go viral. But typically videos are the most shared form of content on the internet. Blog posts, and other content with images in it have higher engagement than content without images. Images and videos play huge role in ensuring that your content is shared.  Seeing who is talking to them or what you are talking about can help customers form a deeper connection with your brand.

Here are some great tips from Forbes magazine to help you create the best viral video content.

2. Emotion

Creating an emotional connection with your viewer is of utmost importance for any viral campaign. According to SproutSocial

there is actually some science to this one. They took Psychologist, Robert Plutchik’s wheel of emotions concept. It states that all human behaviour is governed by eight emotions:

  • Joy
  • Trust
  • Fear
  • Surprise
  • Sadness
  • Anticipation
  • Anger
  • Disgust

Your task while brainstorming for your next piece of potentially viral content is to ensure that your content evokes as many of these emotions as possible. The other option is to focus on any one or two emotions and make sure your content is universal enough t evoke the desired emotion.

This video of a Polish man learning English won many hearts and got over 2.7 million views on YouTube. (Please note, there is use of explicit language in the video.)

3. Information

If you can create content that is not just entertaining, but also creates awareness, helps solve a common problem or expands the user’s knowledge, consider that you’ve hit the jackpot!

People also love to help each other out. So creating content that helps them out will encourage them to share it with someone else who may also find it useful.

One of our favourite videos was by the company Velcro.

The video was made to stop people from using the word ‘velcro’ as it had some legal implications.

What we loved about the video was that it’s informational, provides alternatives for the problem that exists and to top it all off, it’s really funny too!

4. Humor

Being funny is how a large number of YouTubers and influencers got famous in the first place. If it can happen for them, why can’t it happen for your brand? People love having a good laugh and will be more encouraged to share something that they think will make others laugh too.

Take the example of the Dollar shave company their viral video is so hilarious that even though you know they are heavily promoting their product, you don’t actually mind sharing the video with your followers, because you know it will make them laugh.

5. Keyword

Ideally, your content should pop up when people search using keywords that describe the subject of your content. There are many ways you can optimize your content for keywords. You can use keywords in:

  • Headlines
  • Tags
  • Description
  • Blog Content
  • Image Text
  • Video Dialogue
  • Hashtags

Adding your keywords to these places will ensure that your content will make sure you rank higher on Google search engines so that it will be easier for all the people who search for the keyword to find and share your content.

6. Influencer

A great way to go viral is to take the help of influencers. They have their own community of followers who pay attention to every post they share. This is an ideal and organic way of getting more eyes on your content.

We can all hope and pray that some big-time celebrity finds our content and shares it to their millions of followers and our content goes viral, but that is actually quite a rare occurrence. The ratio of content posted and the content shared for free by celebrities is quite distant.

Instead you can choose influencers in your industry and ask them to share your content. That is obviously easier said than done, but the results are worth the effort. The best way to ensure influencers share your content is by building mutually beneficial relationships with them.

Here’s a great article by the Copyblogger on building relationships with influencers without making it awkward

If you would like to know more about influencers and micro-influencers in order to figure out what works best for your brand, read our most popular post on influencers and the top influencers in every industry

Here is Olay India’s Instagram campaign for India’s top mommy bloggers. These are influencers with over 50,000 followers. Imagine the reach?

7. Incorporate

Incorporating sharing into your content campaign is one of the easiest ways for going viral. Don’t believe us? We’ve got two words for you:


In case you haven’t seen it already, just Google it.

For your entertainment, here’s a parody video of the challenge.

This song was everywhere. Everyone knew about it and it catapulted the song to the top of the charts even before the official video for the song had been released.

User-generated content is welcomed by all because it makes people think that they can do it too. Making a contest or challenge out of your campaign can make it go viral almost instantly.

Another way is to provide some value for sharing. Take the online course company SkillShare. They provide you with a free one month for every friend who signs up for SkillShare with the unique link you send to them.


8. Unique

This one is really a no-brainer, but one of the most important elements for going viral is to be unique. Creating unique content that no one has ever done before automatically adds an element of surprise that catches the viewer off guard and increases the chances of them sharing it.

This video by TNT, the television channel known for its dramatic shows has to be one of the most unique viral videos we have ever seen.


We understand that not everyone has the funds to pull off such a massive production, but it’s the idea that counts.

9. Be subtle

Viral campaigns are usually started by brands that are trying to promote something. But the best and most successful campaigns are the ones that don’t immediately make you feel like you are being asked to purchase a product or service.

Make the content as entertaining or emotion-evoking or informational as you can and ensure that your product promotion is subtle. Your customer should feel like buying your product not only because of the quality of your product but also because of the quality of the content you have worked so hard on.

If you are promoting something from the get-go users can sense it and such an approach often lacks appeal.


Final Note

Viral Campaigns are a mix of luck, timing, and moving content. If you get the three right, at the right moment your campaign could soar.

Here’s a little bonus for staying with us till the end.

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