Going Viral: The Idea is Only 5% of the Journey



October 28, 2013 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

You think you have the next big idea that will go viral? Well, you probably do! There are tons of great ideas out there, but the fact of the matter is the idea is only 5% of the journey to going viral. Let’s take a look at the other 95% and what it really takes to bring your content to the next level.

Before We Begin

Here are a few pointers to give your content the potential to go viral. If your idea falls within the following you might have the beginning 5% done.

Be Current

Relate to current events and follow what’s topical: no one wants to see your Harlem Shake parody anymore. People are already talking about things that are currently happening, so piggybacking off of current news will give you a leg up. Check Twitter and Google Trends to see if people are still talking about your idea to make sure you’re still relevant.

Be Funny

Is your idea funny? You’re definitely on the right track! People love to laugh. Go ahead and make a video on it.

Be Visual

Use pictures, use memes, use gifs. The only rule is don’t be boring! Take a risk!

The 95%

So now you have this fabulous idea with the fundamentals we just talked about. What is the 95% that it takes to go viral? Before doing anything, know that there is no set in stone formula. The following will be the best steps to getting your content exposure, but there is never a guarantee of virality.

Get Social

Social medial promotion needs to be at the top of your list. As previously discussed, hashtags can be your best friend. These will go along with topics already trending and can potentially catch the eye of a huge company or celebrity. If a major account Retweets you, you’re in for a win.

Get picked Up

You have arrived when your content jumps to sites like Mashable, Buzzfeed, and TMZ. If it gets really big you might even see it on TV.

Get in the In-boxes

While I can almost a guarantee your content will go viral if it appears on one of these sites, you shouldn’t just wait and see if it gets shared. Try sending them your content as well. All of these sites have editors you can reach out to and submit your content to. You never know.

Get Emotional

Always remember that getting some type of emotion from your content will make it easier to go viral. People remember things that trigger an emotion. While humor might be your natural go-to, many other emotions will get people to share your content from anger to shock.

Example Time


Check out Heineken’s airport stunt from earlier this year. They approached people at the airport and offered them a free ticket. The Catch? You have to play Departure Roulette. Players have no idea where they will be going, from Cancun to Canada. While only a few hundred people actually witnessed the stunt firsthand, it went viral and has more than 2.4 million YouTube views. The idea and execution was only the tip of the iceberg, as Heineken’s additional marketing efforts and promotions made this idea go viral. You can have the best idea in the world, but without the right marketing it won’t go anywhere.

Red Bull

Another great example of a company’s extra efforts being the determining factor of an idea going viral is Red Bull and its cliff diving stop motion film. The initial idea only had five Instagrammers on it. Red Bull’s marketing department took it to the next level and gave the idea its own website. Pairing a website with the right hashtags put the idea on the right path. The efforts proved successful and the campaign went viral.

All in all, get your 5% in order, throw your weight into the 95%, and cross your fingers. A simple formula isn’t going to get your content to go viral, so work as hard as you can with your marketing and promotions. Share your content like crazy and hope everyone else thinks your idea is as cool as you think it is.

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