Published October 5, 2019
How to measure virality
Hopefully your boss never said that to you! Virality is a wonderful thing, but a terrible social media strategy to pursue. Virality as a strategy is like lottery tickets as a retirement plan. Don’t expect to win, but if you do, expect that the results are not replicable.
Now that we’ve established that you shouldn’t gamble on virality, does that mean you shouldn’t pursue it at all? Well that kind of depends on your perspective.
You shouldn’t pursue the result, but you should follow the method for going viral because what you get out of it is the key to all online success: great content.
If content is the great arbiter of online success then virality is the crowning of content royalty.
With Talkwalker you can visualize virality not just by volume, but by sentiment.
The definition of virality
It means that when you see, use, or interact with something, whether that’s a piece of content or a product, you want to share it.
K-Pop bands have legions of fans. Talkwalker has many ways to map them.
You want your friends to use the product too, because you’ll both get more value out of it that way. Or you want people you know to read the story, watch the video, and form an opinion. So you can discuss, even if that discussion is as simple as “that’s crazy!”.
Something is viral when someone shares it with at least one other person, and that action is replicated again and again. Importantly, this happens in a very short amount of time.
Why does something go viral?
Viral content is sticky. It makes you want to watch it again. It makes you want to be a part of it.
This is part of what makes TikTok so addictive. The videos are short. They loop again and again. And in the case of things like #hashtagchallenges, TikTok makes it easy for you to join in on the fun and remix something popular to give it your own spin.
But there are over a million videos viewed on TikTok everyday. If you’re not on the app, but have seen something that originally went viral on there on a different platform, just know that you are seeing the very best of TikTok content.
That content beat out 1 million other videos to make it to you. This is why virality is not a strategy.
The other two platforms where virality is achieved are Twitter and Reddit. Reddit makes it easy to push the top content in front of you, and it’s easy for you as a user to contribute to that push.
Think about some of the funniest, best tweets you’ve seen. #Relatable stuff. It was probably on Instagram or Facebook right?
instagram is literally just screenshots of tweets and i think @Twitter should call them out
— miaa (@Miagrassia28) August 9, 2019
Look at this tweet that got 300 likes on Twitter. Twitter shared it to their Instagram page where it received 52,000 likes. Yes, there’s more people on Instagram.
But one of the keys to achieving virality is making a jump. If the content clears the quality barrier, the next hurdle is jumping to a different platform. Exposing it to a new audience is the key.
In the example above the main entity to create that jump was Twitter itself. But it can be anyone.
K-Pop bands have legions of fans. Talkwalker has many ways to map them.
How many viral Snapchat videos can you think of? Snapchat’s not built that way, so it’s probably none.
TikTok, on the other hand, is built that way:
- With one tap the videos can be shared to Instagram or Snapchat.
- They can be texted to friends.
- They live on your phone without having to tap a separate button to download it.
Not to mention the content created on TikTok is meant to be shared, it’s eminently consumable.
Benefits of going viral
There are numerous benefits to going viral, and some pitfalls if you are unprepared.
Your name gets out there, which as a brand is great. If you are selling products, make sure you are stocked up, as nothing will turn a crowd against you like running out of the thing the public craves. A certain fried chicken chain can attest to the importance of this.
As a private individual, it can be a huge nuisance and at times scary - the level that strangers on the internet will go to in order to get your attention can be unnerving. If you are chasing influencer fame just be careful - you may overstep and go full viral. There’s no going back.
How to go viral on social media:
According to HubSpot there are six key considerations to keep in mind when creating with the end goal of virality. Before any of them, you should consider what type of virality you are aiming for:
1 - Niche appeal - you want this to resonate right? Well pick a group it will resonate with, and make something appealing to them.
2 - Visually: Start strong. You have .8 of a second for your video to hold my attention. If you want me to stick around for 10 or 30 you need to prove why it’s worth it to me right off the bat.
3 - It’s creative: I want it to be different from anything I’ve seen recently. If I’ve seen it before I won’t share it because I assume the people I’d share it with have seen it too.
4 - It strikes an emotional chord: this goes back to #relatable. I need to connect with this content in a way that makes me want to start a conversation with my friends about it.
5 - It makes you want to share: Don’t put barriers up to sharing this content in other locations. You might want to create this on a platform where those who view it can share it easily, with a single tap on their phone.
6 - It’s published at the right moment: It’s either timely because it’s what people are discussing, or it’s at the right moment to capture lots of viewers, like a weekday night. If you want your video to go viral on a Saturday night, it better be something extremely interesting.
Examples of viral content
There are many, many examples of viral content, and how those who find themselves in a viral storm can act in order to maximize the opportunity. This example is only the most recent.
Kylie Jenner recently posted a video to YouTube where she goes to wake up her daughter with the words “Rise and Shine”. Except her daughter was already awake. So people started to goof on her on Instagram and TikTok. Celebrities even got in on the action.
Never one to let an opportunity pass by, Kylie has turned it into a catchphrase and is putting it on merchandise. She’s already sold out of the first run of “Rise and Shine” merch, and trademarked the phrase. See some of the examples of the memes below:
How to measure virality
Virality comes from the world of science. You know the types. They are people who use numbers and empirical evidence. So, naturally, they created a formula:
T = the total number of viewers or customers or whatever you are tracking at the end of the time period.
C = Your starting number, people who viewed or purchased the product originally.
K = The viral coefficient. This number has to be greater than 1 in order for something to go viral.
I’m not a math or formula guy, but even I understand this part. If you don’t send the thing along to at least one more person, it’s not going to go any further. The virality ends with you.
Don’t be the break in the chain! If you love it, share it.
Luckily for you, this is the internet and we have lots of tools at our disposal to measure virality. Did you click the link in the formula? That’s a virality calculator. A good place to start.
But maybe you are more of a visual learner. Or the virality coefficient k really doesn’t tell you what you need to know. We’ve still got you covered.
Tools to measure virality
Talkwalker Analytics | Powerful Social Media Analytics
Talkwalker is ultimately the first and only tool you need. Instead of cobbling together features from the tools below, you can track it and map it all using Talkwalker’s state of the art social listening features. That includes virality maps, conversation drivers, the powerful influencer network, almost any way you wanted to slice your viral data
Talkwalker can help you understand how, where, and why a conversation spreads.
Talkwalker Free Social Search | Free Social Media Analytics
Talkwalker Free Social Search is really, truly, free. And if you want to know how to measure virality, well a measurements and analytics company is a great place to start, if you ask me.
Display Purposes | Instagram hashtag tracking
Display Purposes is a great free tool if you are looking to track a viral hashtag on Instagram. It can help tell you who’s using the hashtag, and where the conversation is happening. It’s a little wonky sometimes, but it’s also beautiful.
These are hashtags, mapped and coded by color.
TweetDeck | Multiple Twitter streams on one screen
TweetDeck is an amazing way to sift through mounds of tweets in just a moment. Set yourself up with a column about the latest Twitter moment, or trending hashtag. Then make yourself a list of top users of that hashtag. In fact, TweetDeck is so great you’re probably already using it.
Multiple columns based on your search terms: that can be a single user, a list of users, or even Boolean search terms. Hey as long as you’re here why not follow @RafaelSternbach?
OneMillionTweetMap | Tweets mapped globally
A great way to see how virality spreads. Track a username or hashtag from Twitter and map it across the world! You can also compare two hashtags against each other. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s virality mapped.
This is a live heatmap of Tweets. You can filter by username or hashtag to see what’s happening in your area or by interest.
Google Trends | View and compare the popularity of phrases
Google Trends is a great way to check in on usage of a word or phrase. If you see a sudden spike in popularity, you know you have a viral instance on your hand.
Trends show that TikTok is a, well, they show it’s a trend.
Now that you're ready to measure virality, get out there and create something people will love. When it comes time to measure virality, Talkwalker's here with the tools you need to understand where, when, why and how your content became such a hit.
Subscribe to our newsletter for social resources
Join 70,000+ professionals and become a better social media marketer. Get social media resources and tips in your inbox weekly.