Do you want your content to be more successful? Whether your goal is to help people, grow your customer base or generate ad revenue there are definite rewards when posts get seen by lots of people. High engagement and steady growth underpin success, but a viral post can give you a huge boost. When a post goes viral it is pushed out far beyond your normal audience and it is seen by hundreds of thousands or even millions of people. The challenge is: how do you make a post go viral?  Lots of resources claim to have the formula for creating viral posts, but my approach might be a little different and it is achievable for everyone. Whether you want to be successful on Instagram, TikTok or Facebook the key elements of success are the same.

a screenshot of tiktok analytics showing the performance of a viral post
A viral post can bring a huge boost to your business, but how do you make viral posts that are beneficial?

I have been a content creator for over 10 years and in that time I have published A LOT of posts. I’ll be honest the quality hasn’t always been great, but I like to play around to see what works and what doesn’t. On my personal accounts I share information for the benefit of family, friends and as an online diary. In contrast on my business pages my content needs to be helpful and I want my posts to be seen as widely as possible by my target audience. On websites my focus is SEO so that my content is suggested when someone asks a search engine for answers, but on social media I need to grab attention and encourage my audience to make my posts perform well. 

Despite careful planning some of my most successful posts surprised me with their popularity until I analysed them and realised why they had done so well. If you want to make viral posts, and more importantly benefit from this post shares my strategy.  

9 Steps To Make Your Social Media Posts Go Viral

1. Show Up

It is easy to feel posting paralysis. You can get so worried about the pressure to create great content that you end up sharing nothing at all, but the obvious truth is that content you don’t post has zero chance of going viral so first and foremost make sure you create and share content. 

Does it matter if a post doesn’t do well? I don’t think so. If you look at celebrities feeds you will see some of their posts do better than others and they probably came to the platform with a crowd of supporters. For everyone else it is regular posts that show what we are about and build our engaged audience. Having an engaged audience make it more likely a post will go viral in future. So show up and post. 

If you really have nothing to post on your Instagram grid then still show up on stories or go on TikTok or Twitter. If you really hate how a post looks or has performed you can always delete it in the future. Not only does posting regularly help you be more visible to your audience, but it will improve your content over time as you will develop your style and experience. 

2. Be Consistent

While some of the social media guru’s I love disagree with me on this point I think consistency is hugely important, not just in showing up, but in what you post about. For instance if your account is all about dogs then sharing a post about fashion or politics (unless it is dog related) is confusing for your audience. 

I recommend being consistent with your niche and style for a few reasons. Firstly your existing audience might not respond so well to the different content which can mean the post doesn’t perform well. The algorithms on social media look at how your followers respond to your posts eg do they like the post? do they comment? do they share it? If the initial audience to see the post doesn’t respond well it isn’t pushed out to as many people. 

Sometimes a post that is different to your normal style can do really well, it might even go viral, but that’s not actually a good thing. A viral post can lead to an influx of new followers who loved your viral post, but if your normal content doesn’t resonate with the new people it will affect your reach and engagement on future posts. Incidentally this is often the problem with hosting giveaways.

The other reason I recommend being consistent is it increases the chances of going viral in the right way. Accounts usually grow faster when they are more niche and while I believe people should post whatever they want on their channels the more cohesive your content is the better your audience are likely to respond which is more likely to create a viral post.

3. Be Passionate

One of my most popular blog posts is a “rant post” that I wrote in 15 minutes while I was angry about something. It’s years old now and still gets views every day and has more comments than any other post. In my viral social media posts I talk passionately about something that upset me or made me angry. 

Emotions create a connection with your audience. They give you personality and make you stand out. It encourages people to comment to support you, as well as nosy people who love to see what is going on. 

Passion also helps because if you feel strongly about something there is a good chance others will too. When people feel passionate about something they are more likely to engage and share a post which tells the algorithms to show your post to more people. They don’t even need to agree with you, controversial posts often do really well because people love to argue. I personally find negative comments hard to deal with so I don’t suggest posting controversial content unless you are thick skinned, it is something you believe very strongly about or you love to argue. 

4. Be Authentic

I often see business accounts posting controversial topics or silly memes, with the sole intention of getting engagement. It can works really well for that post and it might go viral, but what is the goal of a viral post? You don’t just want one popular post, you want to grow an audience who will be interested in all of your content. Unless your account is solely controversy or silly memes it’s not a great strategy to post them.

I worked with a blogger who complained a lot of their Facebook posts were doing really well, but if they shared a link to a blog post rather than a meme it flopped. When I checked out their page the posts that were doing well weren’t closely linked to the content they blog about so they were encouraging a different audience base to the one they actually needed to bring people to their website.  

The other side of being authentic is producing content that reflects you and your business so that it’s sustainable. If you are pretending to be someone you aren’t you will find it harder to produce and be excited about the content you produce and that will show in the long term. Find an audience that is interested in you, rather than trying to copy others or being what you think others want you to be. It’s easier to be you too. If you find it easier to produce content you are more likely to show up, be passionate, be consistent and when you go viral you will benefit from it.

Don’t Forget the Basics

Before a post goes viral it needs to be seen, so don’t forget the basics that help your social media posts get seen.

5. Use trending music or sounds

Trending sounds help because the platform often push them out to more people and you can search for other videos using a sound. To get the best benefit check the top videos to see how the sound is being used and create content that is relevant, but with your spin on it to make it fit your content. Originality is good, but some sounds are used for very specific purposes eg if you use a song for recipe that is trending because people use it when sharing a personal tragedy it might be seen as in bad taste. 

6. Consider Your Timing 

Often there is no best time to post, but there are bad times to post. If most of your audience is UK based posting in the middle of the night will reduce the number of relevant people who see it. If you share parenting content posting at school pick up might be an issue. If you have a young audience who are likely to be out on a Friday night posting then can be a bad idea. Except sometimes it can work well because if there is less content being published at that time you will be more visible to the people who are online. Basically don’t overthink it, if you have similar interests to your audience and you are available to post, some of them should be around too.

7. Make posts useful, funny, relatable or all 3

This makes people more likely to engage and to share with others. 

8. Quickly Grab Attention

People scroll quickly, especially on their phones so there needs to be something instantly catching about the image, at the beginning of the video or at the beginning of the caption which grabs peoples attention and stops them scrolling. In a video this might be a teaser of whats to come which makes people curious enough to keep watching or a title that lets people know it is relevant to them.

9. Be Original

People don’t want to see identical posts so always put your own unique stamp on your content to make it stand out. This isn’t as hard as it sounds, use your personality, humour or style to stand out from the crowd. You are the only one with your voice and the more you use it the clearer it will get.

How To Benefit From A Viral Post

So your post was seen by 55k people? You had a reach of 546k? Your video was viewed by over a million people? That is amazing, well done, but a month later have you seen any benefit? People often don’t benefit from viral posts and as you won’t know for sure what goes viral until it does it’s important to consider each post as having the potential before you post it.

Before posting:
Make sure you are posting consistently and authentically as talked about above. If it is similar topic and style to your existing content it is likely to convert into more followers and a growth. People will often check out your other content from the viral content and if they like it they will follow you. 

If the viral element (the part that people want to share) is an image or text it I strongly recommend watermarking it or putting your username/ url on it. It is common for people to screenshot posts they like and reshare them rather than using the platforms inbuilt sharing features. Even if they tag you the platform won’t give you credit and push your original post wider. Sometimes the accounts who share it are huge, there post goes viral and the original creator gets long forgotten so in order to benefit from this you need to have your details on the image. Ideally put your username somewhere unobtrusive, but hard to crop off. 

After the post has gone viral there is less you can do to leverage it for future value, but there are still a few things worth doing.

Depending on the platform you can edit the original post or add a comment which will send a notification to anyone who has previously commented. You can use this to encourage people to check out a related post.

On Facebook pages you can invite people who have engaged with a post to like your page, not everyone will, but it’s worth trying.

Review the content to see if there is anything about your style or approach that worked well and you can replicate in the future. Why did it go viral? Sometimes it’s just that the post just works. The people it is shown to like it so it gets shown to more and it snowballs. Other times the post might get a big boost eg being shared by a large account. If this happens it’s worth privately thanking the account and letting them know how much you genuinely appreciated it and the positive impact it had on your account. This can make them more likely to share your account in future as well as other smaller accounts. It’s also nice to reciprocate and find a relevant post of theirs to share with your audience.