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Breaking down viral content: What makes it tick?

Let’s talk about content that goes so viral on social media, it becomes part of our cultural conversation.


Content that makes it’s way into communities, schools and friendship groups across the globe.

Let’s talk about it.


Now, the mechanics of what makes content go viral can vary between platforms, but I’ve noticed some common elements that contribute to the virality of content.



A woman being poured water over her for the Ice Bucket Challenge.


Factors influencing virality


Having scoured the internet and different social media channels, looking at viral content, here’s the five things they all have in common:


  1. Content that elicits strong emotions, whether positive or negative, is more likely to be shared.

  2. Content that stands out because of a unique voice, perspective, humour or creativity.

  3. Content that’s released at the right time, when it’s most relevant to current events or trends.

  4. Content that brings a form of peer pressure or moral obligation.

  5. Content that is easy to share and easily resonates with a wide audience (including celebrities).


Here’s some Viral content examples


Here are some great examples I can remember of viral content on different platforms.


Flip the Switch on TikTok


The “Flip the Switch” challenge took off on TikTok. 


It was originally shared by @dallinxbella


Since then, thousands of people have taken on the challenge with their significant others, friends, and family.


Even celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez, Alex Rodriguez, Camilla Cabello and even Politicians took part.





In trend song, simple to recreate, always funny and amusing to participate with your partners. 

The perfect recipe for viral content.


The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge


Now, everyone will remember this one because I guarantee everyone in the summer of 2014 was tagged and nominated to take part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.



Loads of celebrities, public figures, and others got in on the action by filming themselves chucking a bucket of ice-cold water over their heads and daring others to do the same within 24 hours or make a donation to help fund ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) research.


The viral challenge reached millions of people and raised over $220 MILLION globally for ALS associations.


It reached every platform from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. 


I think the combination of celebrity participation, public nominations (peer pressure), ease of participation and the time sensitive nature, lead this challenge to snowball into a mass craze.


All elements combined to create an optimal condition for viral spread, making the Ice Bucket Challenge one of the most successful viral charity campaigns in history.


Takeaway


If you wanna go viral, you’ve gotta grab people’s attention and make them feel something — whether it’s laughter, surprise, anger, stress, or pure joy. 


And above all, it’s gotta be easy to get involved and either resonate with folks or make them feel that peer pressure to take part.


Thanks for reading.


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