We caught your eye there, didn’t we?
Going viral—it’s the thing every client asks for. Every manager. Every CEO. It’s the white whale of every social media marketing team.
It’s highly sought after, but vastly misunderstood.
Having a post go viral is a powerful asset—it’s a fast way to get your brand and your message in front of millions of new people.
But it’s hard to do in a real, predictable way.
Search “how to go viral” and there are thousands of articles that claim to give you the secret.
But not only are there different channels you can go viral on, there are different ways—and reasons—you go viral in the first place.
So let’s revisit our title here.
Let’s talk about:
How to Go Viral…for the Right Reasons.
Is it flash? Or substance?
Here at SimplyBe. we’re not in the business of creating influencers. We’re in the business of thought leadership and creating long-lasting impact.
We like a little flash, but we live for the substance. And the clients we choose to work with do, too. Building a brand is a long game, after all.
Thought leadership is the cornerstone of the work we do here—cultivating personal brands in a way that supports that unique person’s goals and gets the right message into the world, in the right way that resonates with the right people. It’s an art and a science.
Going viral can be exhilarating for your brand—it’s like a drug.
But just like any drug, there will be side effects.
It can be an easy, cheap high that gets you noticed for a day or two. Or it can be a helpful, transcending high that opens doors to new avenues you never even dreamed of. (Again: flash vs. substance.)
Flashy, superficial content that goes viral is ultimately short lived. It might get you a boost of new followers and increased engagement initially, but if it has nothing to do with who you are as a person or as a brand (i.e. if you’re jumping on the bandwagon of the latest trend that in fact has nothing to do with your platform), then those results will be fleeting.
You might experience that sudden influx, then see a decline, and try to recapture the magic of that initial post, without understanding the unreliability of this type of viral content. The formula is chaotic. And if it doesn’t make sense to or serve your target audience, it might actually hurt your brand and cost you audience members in the long run.
When content is relevant, true, and maybe just a little controversial, going viral will pay back dividends that you’ll see for months to come. This type of post going viral will put you on the map, and your brand’s reinforcement of those respective ideas will keep you there.
This second type of viral post is what is always a good idea: the combination of timely and authentic (and maybe even a hot take!) will resonate with your audience and further your brand. The question is how far it will further your brand. If conditions are just right, then be prepared to experience an entirely new level of your brand and business.
Legacy, Leadership, and Lightning in a Bottle
On September 8, 2022, Queen Elizabeth II of England passed away, and a flood of love and grief from all over the world immediately began pouring in. For our client, Xavier Ramey, his reaction (and the reaction he was seeing from those he knows) was much more complicated.
As the CEO of Justice Informed, LLC, a social impact consulting firm, Xavier works to bring catalyzed strategies for inclusion, philanthropy, CSR, and community engagement to his clients. As an award-winning social strategist, noted public speaker, and social equity practitioner, he is a leader in his community and often comments on relevant news, bringing his point of view and unique experiences into the day’s conversations.
And the Queen’s death was no exception.
That same day, Xavier published a lengthy post to LinkedIn. In it, he shared his take on the death of this monarch, and how one person’s legacy can look different to different people. How death is complex. How you can honor the dead without dishonoring your own truth:
“I do not proudly or humbly clap for colonizing nations (including my own) or their leaders, I do not excuse or forget the harms of those who embraced systemic injustice and White supremacy while they had breath to change, I do not patently excuse those who don’t repair and return stolen property or people, nor do I happily celebrate the death of a person—regardless of who they are.”
Xavier used this moment in time to contribute to a larger conversation—one that pertains to HIS work as a social equity practitioner and leader in DEI. He stayed true to his overarching goals in the work he is here to do.
Read the entire post here.
Within 24 hours, it had garnered more than 500k impressions and by September 13, it had almost 7k reactions, over 725 comments, 642 shares, and impressions were up to nearly 600k.
The post broke out of the immediate Chicago area, where his posts had primarily lived, and reached people in LA, New York, and internationally. His following grew a whopping 73% since the beginning of August.
It was the perfect storm of how to go viral.
To maximize the opportunity and speak directly to the new audience he’d reached, Xavier hosted a LinkedIn Live on September 9. There was little time to promote it, and he’d never done a Live before. But he spoke from his heart and his lived experience, and it exceeded expectations in every way.
View the full video here.
He was candid, engaging, and confirmed for viewers that he was not new to this topic.
His metrics continue to hold steady, and he’s seen first hand how the right combination of timeliness, authenticity, and shining a light on a point of view that was being largely overlooked—this time—went viral.
It worked for Xavier, So how can it work for you?
Ultimately, there is no foolproof formula to answer the question “how to go viral.” (So sorry if that’s what you were holding out to the end for.)
Frankly, the biggest variable at play is luck—and you can’t count on, or manufacture, luck.
What you can count on is how and where to lean into your brand.
Create content that is thoughtful, consistent, and authentic to you and the audience you seek to capture. Build up your brand one day at a time, proving to your audience that you know what you’re talking about.
Follow these rules:
- Stay timely. When news breaks that’s relevant to your brand, post about it! To be revered as a true thought leader, it’s critical to contribute your unique and valuable perspective to the conversation.
- Stay on brand. Write or produce your post in a way that’s consistent with other content you’ve shared before. (In other words, don’t change who you are or only focus on what you think people want to hear when you’re contributing to a trending topic).
- Remember your throughline. Relate your post back to your overarching brand message and ultimate business objectives. (Your audience can smell inauthenticity from miles away).
- Play to your strengths. Use the channels and content mediums (such as video, audio or blogging) that work best for you and will resonate with your target audience. Meet them where they are (maybe don’t launch a podcast if your audience isn’t known to listen to podcasts) in a way that will get your message across successfully.
…and one day, when the timing is just right, you, too, will go viral.
But the true virality that you can strive for (the kind that’s much more guaranteed) is the long game of building a clear brand that stands the test of time. Trends come and go faster than ever in today’s digital age. So instead, strive to create valuable thought leadership that will keep them wanting more—you’ll never be disappointed.