Social Media


5 April 2016


3 mins read

Is there a Formula to going viral on Social Media?

Is there a Formula to going viral on Social Media?

“The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behaviour crosses a
threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” – Malcolm Gladwell

Statistics from the Pew Research Centre have shown a massive increase in social media use in the last decade – 65 per cent of adults now use social networking sites, compared to just seven per cent in 2005.

This growth isn’t limited to the younger generations either, with the older generation becoming increasingly prominent on social media channels. Compared to 2005, the number of users aged 65+ using social media has grown by 33 per cent and continues to rise.

When Facebook first launched in February 2004 as a platform for American college students, few could have predicted its impact.

However, from a marketer’s point of view, it has spearheaded a social media explosion that is both fascinating and essential to understand for business. Today we’re looking at the
digital marketer’s holy grail – viral marketing.

Is there a formula for viral marketing?

Conventional social media marketing has enormous capability to maximise brand exposure and get closer to customers, but what is it that ‘tips’ a piece of content into the stratosphere of viral stardom?

Some of the most memorable examples of viral content are photos and videos taken by everyday people, and shared with their friends and family. It’s the results that are unconventional.

Creating an authentic viral sensation is something that every digital marketer aspires to but is there a short-cut to internet fame? Can you achieve viral stardom in the click of a button?

Let’s take a look back at some of the biggest viral trends over the last few years to consider the answer to that question.

The viral #nomakeup selfie

In March 2014, after a heated row at the Oscars regarding the ever popular “selfie,” Cancer Research UK launched their biggest social media campaign to date – #NoMakeupSelfie.

The trend took the internet by storm, endorsed by celebrities including Kym Marsh and Holly Willoughby, and reached viral stardom in less than two days.


The fundraising phenomenon generated more than two million pounds for Cancer Research UK in less than 48 hours – one of its greatest campaigns to date.

This seemingly selfless ‘challenge’ wasn’t without its controversies, though.

Many believed it was wrong to compare the bravery of a bare faced woman with the battling beauty of a cancer patient, which triggered many fierce debates online.

Alas, this simply pushed the social campaign further into viral stardom and the hashtag had soon developed into something further – #ManWithMakeup where males donated money to Cancer Research Centres for men.

International Puzzlement

The latest social media trend to create frenzy amongst the nation has come from Instagram ‘Phoneographer’ Tiziana Vergari.

How many individual girls do you see in the photo? Two, six, eight?


The photo shows a long line of girls and has the internet in meltdown attempting to decipher how many sisters are actually in the image. Vergari has confirmed there are actually only two sisters in the image, and with clever use of mirrors and lighting she was able to create the idea of a continuing spectrum. Pretty cool, huh?

As humans, our need to be right is so overwhelming that this simple picture created for a project celebrating individuality was elevated into internet stardom and will be placed in the same category as #TheDress for eternity.

Divide and conquer for internet fame

So, is there a secret to viral social media marketing content? Well, not quite. The only similarities that these three viral examples have in common is that they were examples of original content, posted by anonymous individuals who had no desire to be pushed into internet stardom.

Their organic content was truly unique and happened to resonate due to it inadvertently tapping into widely held feelings and human curiosity.

With regards to #nomakeupselfie and #thedress, there were low barriers to participation, furthering the viral spread. The harder it is for people to take part, the less likely your content will spread like wildfire.

That said, there will always be a random factor when it comes to viral content, and there are dangers when it comes to trying to engineer viral success. Misfires and half-successful campaigns look lacklustre, artificial and can leave a nasty taste.

The priority focus for most should be to be unique and have a strong social understanding with your followers. Interact, don’t neglect and provide interesting, relevant social media content for your ideal customers and influencers.

Do this and you’ll be onto a winner…but it doesn’t hurt to ensure that your content is likeable, rapidly understood, resonant and geared towards making engagement and modification easy.

If you think your business could use some social media guidance, get in touch to see what Maratopia can do for you.