What makes a post viral

The path to becoming an internet star? This is how you go viral on Instagram

Today's generation of children would rather be YouTubers or influencers than astronauts or professional footballers. It is therefore not exactly surprising that many people are trying to build reach on YouTube, Instagram and Co. There are many different ways to get coverage, but many require you to have a lot of money, a good network, or both. One method that you basically don't need money or vitamin B for is virality. Torben Platzer has published a good article on this, where he explains the basic principles of virality. However, he focuses more on jumping on a trend and using it to benefit from its growing popularity. I would also like to give you specific tips and tricks and clear up myths that you can use to go viral on Instagram.

The basics

If you are really planning a project or several posts that should go through the roof, your account must also be right. The better your Instagram account, the more likely it is that someone who sees your viral post will also follow you. Since it would go beyond the scope of this to explain all the basics to you, if you are interested you can read the guide on how to get Instagram followers. Basically, your Instagram account should follow a clear central theme. So if you're only posting cat videos, your viral post shouldn't be about cars. The quality should of course also meet a certain standard and in the best case you are already active on Instagram, post regularly and already have a few followers. There are also many smaller details, but these are only a fraction of the ones just mentioned.

Why Instagram is different

Every social network works a little differently. But there is always a certain basic idea or content that simply performs better on some platforms than on others. Instagram was originally for image editing, so it's clear that it started with photos too. I hardly need to explain to you that Instagram lives from pretty, funny, informative and witty pictures and videos. But you should understand the dynamic behind it. Because some things are simply more popular on Instagram than on YouTube or Facebook. I can take a post and publish it on all platforms, but it won't be 100 percent tailored to any platform. To be more specific now: Pictures and videos that appeal to people work very well on Instagram. These can be beautiful pictures of other people (e.g. a body transformation), but food and animals also work particularly well. Since I have created and built up Instagram accounts in many different niches myself, here are a few examples that have worked particularly well for me:

• animals
• Hobbies (e.g. gaming)
• Luxury (cars, watches, fashion, etc.)

I haven't had a niche as simple as that of pets. A cute picture of a puppy dog ​​simply appeals to a very large number of people. 100 followers in one day? No problem, even if the account only has 200 followers.

The Instagram algorithm

Before I show you a few examples from reality, I would like to briefly explain what indicators Instagram uses to give a post more reach and thereby make it viral. Instagram does not provide the information very sparingly, but through experiments you can see what is relevant and what is not. A rule of thumb is: the more users interact, the more likely your post will go viral. Since the Instagram feed is no longer chronological, a new post will only be shown immediately to a small circle of your followers. If these followers spend a lot of time with the post, like it, comment on it or share it with friends, it will also be played out to the rest of the followers. If these in turn show that an above-average number of people interact with the post, your post will very likely land on the Instagram Explore Page. In summary, the following indicators play a role for the algorithm:

  4. Shares (in DMs or mentions in the comments)
  5. Storages

Examples of virality

The first example I want to give you is from one of my accounts. At the time of this post, the account had around 25,000 followers.

He's in the gaming niche and the post is a clip from the game. The post stands out a bit because the player's performance was very good, but I generally post such clips on the account. To this day, however, this post is the one that performed best on this account. I want to show you this example because I didn't have any plans for this post. But apparently I was lucky that a lot of people liked it and shared it. As you can see in the screenshots, the number of DMs and storages is simply enormous. Therefore, you should try to encourage users in your image description to share the image with their friends or the post simply encourages it to be saved and distributed.

The second example is from the YesTheory group. Contrary to my post, your campaign was very well planned.

Here is the short version: The guys wanted to make a viral post without using their own reach on YouTube. Her plan was to get the news out of the picture. To do this, they flew in a Justin Bieber double and thought about how to get discovered by the media. They came up with the brilliant idea of ​​having the Justin Bieber Double eat a burrito sideways and take a picture of it. One post on Reddit later and the wildfire started. News outlets across America have been talking about this posed paparazzi photo. A quote from one of the news channels:

If you're not offended, you're not American.

That sums it up pretty well. Her plan was for a well-known personality to do something that not only makes many Americans think, but also really attacks and almost offends them. You have thus intuitively picked up all the important aspects of virality and used them for yourself. In the meantime, your explanatory video has already received 15 million views. So they also benefited a lot from the whole campaign.

Virality through manipulation

I have now given you two examples. One was really planned and the other more or less by chance. But there are people who do everything in their power to create virality through manipulation. Therefore, I would like to briefly go back to Instagram. The enormous popularity of Instagram makes it more and more lucrative to maintain reach. Here, too, attempts were made to manipulate and outsmart the algorithm. I mentioned at the beginning that the interaction with a post plays a role. It used to be possible to just buy a ton of likes and comments and then a post would go viral almost automatically. That was taken advantage of for a while and people cheated their accounts up like that. In the end, it's always a game of cat and mouse. Someone finds a loophole, takes advantage of it as long as possible and Instagram tries to close it. The algorithm is simply getting better and better at distinguishing whether a like is real, i.e. corresponds to natural user behavior, or whether it has just been bought. That's why I myself notice that engagement groups, i.e. groups in which you comment on each other's contributions, are less and less effective. They just don't seem natural. But there will always be loopholes.

In the above report, for example, you can see the chart manipulation on YouTube and Spotify, through which rappers are pushed into the charts. I don't want to name any names, anyone who listens to German rap will certainly know who is meant by that. The motto for them is: "Fake it till you make it". They just bought so many views, likes, comments, and streams that real people notice them and then, in turn, ensure virality.

I hope you were able to take away some suggestions! Maybe you will trigger the next trend.

I am 19 years old and when I was 15, during my school days, I started dealing with online marketing. I started with 10 Instagram accounts and organically brought them from 0 to a total of over 125,000 followers. My two largest accounts have over 30,000 followers. It was already clear to me at school that I didn't want to go the normal way, so I registered my business on my 18th birthday and founded my own online marketing agency. Now I help companies and people to set up their online presence and thereby gain more customers.