What exactly does it mean to go viral?

The term “gone viral” is used on a regular basis. But, does anyone actually know how many likes and shares you need for your content to be classed as viral? No? We didn’t either, so we did some digging…

What exactly does it mean to go viral? A yellow wavey background. In the foreground are two cartoon people looking at their phones, one has lots of Instagram and Facebook likes coming from it. Next to them is a smartphone cartoon with lots of cartoon people surrounding it and the words "Viral content".

Going viral is a big thing, for any size creator. It means your content has reached more viewers than you’d likely imagined. Your work will be snowballing, as more and more people start to see what you’ve shared. However, is there a clear-cut definition of what it means to go viral? Is there a set amount of views or shares you need? Let’s dive a little deeper.

What does ‘going viral’ mean?

To explain it simply, going viral means that your video or photo is extremely popular. It has spread far and wide across at least the platform it was posted to. However, it’s likely spread beyond that with people sharing it to their various feeds for friends and followers to also see. Typically, when content goes viral you’ll see it across multiple platforms.

When searching the topic, or your name on the internet, the content should appear. You won’t need to share the content constantly as it will be essentially sharing itself. Normally, with viral content, the creator shares it once and that’s their work done. Viewers will instead voluntarily share the work, and it will continue to increase in views.

Viral content is essentially reaching an unlocked section. You’re hitting new levels, and you’re at a point you didn’t typically foresee happening. The views will grow quicker than you can count, and your content will be shared further than is in your control. Typically, going viral is only a positive thing. It’s an advertisement for you as a creative.

How many views do you need to ‘go viral’?

There isn’t an official rule for numbers of likes or shares when it comes to going viral. It can vary across platforms and industries or niches. Not every account will be the same. Smaller businesses may go viral at a much smaller rate than those who already have a huge following. Some marketing experts believe content has gone viral if it hits 5 million views.

This is within the first week of the content being posted. However, perhaps an account with only a handful of followers might feel they’ve gone viral with 10,000 likes because their content is being shared to huge amounts of people. More than they could have imagined. The idea of going viral is expanding your views.

More and more people are interacting and engaging with your work, which in turn gets your name spread further. Meaning, over time your brand or business, or you as a creative will grow. It can be hard to continue to go viral. Once you’ve had one piece blow up, you can’t guarantee all your content will. So, it’s important to focus on quality over quantity.

Viral will mean something different for everyone. Depending on experience, time put into the content, your level of following and your content. There are so many factors that decide how well your account will perform. But, nonetheless, it’s good to have an idea of what it takes to go viral, so you can try and work towards making a break-through.

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