The 2 Ingredients of a Viral Post

PinInner Circle members: Share a personalized version of this article from the members area.

“Going viral” is such a subjective term, isn’t it? Ask ten people to name the point when something is officially “viral” and you’ll get ten different answers. There’s really no objective standard.

That said, can we agree that 77 THOUSAND SHARES of an article is considered viral? I’m betting that’s a safe assumption by any standard.

Before we dive into the two ingredients of a viral post, look at the screenshot of the viral article I just referenced. Notice the website that shared the article? You’ve never even heard of it, right?

The point is that you don’t have to be the New York Times, or TMZ, or (insert publication everyone knows) to go viral. You just have to post great content. This article was originally shared to an audience of just a few hundred people!

Actually, is operated by us, The Lighter Side of Real Estate. We use it to host articles that we write on behalf of agents who want to gain top-of-mind status on social media. We create memes and videos too, and all this content is personalized for agents to share with their name and info attached — as if they created it.

We call this service our “Inner Circle” membership and this particular article was posted by one of our members. (Learn more about our service here.) You can imagine how blown away this agent is! And yes, we’re certainly proud it went viral.

But full disclaimer: Just because it’s easy to understand why a post goes viral (there’s only two ingredients), it is NOT easy to actually pull off, as you’ll see in a minute.

Let’s dive into the two ingredients of a viral post.

Ingredient #1

The content has to be share-worthy. Duh! This article obviously meets that criterion, as does lots of our content, but let’s dive a little deeper into the psychology of what triggers a share.

If you pay attention to viral content, you’ll notice that most of the time it has these qualities:

  • Invokes awe, laughter or amusement
  • Appeals to people’s narcissistic side – makes them look smart, witty, compassionate, etc. for sharing

In fact, The New York Times interviewed 2,500 people to determine why they shared a story online. The main reasons were:

  • To bring valuable and entertaining content to one another
  • To define themselves to others (give people a better sense of who they are)
  • To grow and nourish relationships (stay connected with others)
  • For self-fulfillment (to feel more involved in the world)
  • To get the word out on causes they care about

This starting to make sense? As a real estate agent, you’ll get more exposure by posting stuff with other people’s interests in mind vs. your own (“Hey look at me and all my listings… I’m never too busy for your referrals, blah blah.”)

That said, I urge you to NOT get your hopes up for going viral. Statistically speaking, it’s a very rare occurrence.

And while viral-worthy content can be found all over the Internet for you to post (we create it for agents every day), the second ingredient of a viral post is what’s likely to dash your hopes of going viral.

Ingredient #2

It usually requires an “influencer” to share your post—a person or page with huge organic reach—and only THEN will it (maybe) grow legs and take off running.

We’re pretty good with Ingredient #1, but #2 is pure luck; it’s beyond yours or our control. But there’s an even bigger reason why you shouldn’t get your hopes up…

In the big scheme of things, “going viral” doesn’t matter…

Look, does social engagement matter? Of course it does. And if you ever get to experience going viral, it’s certainly an exhilarating feeling. BUT…

Social metrics don’t paint a complete picture of your social “worth.”

In other words, it’s not a reliable indicator of your social influence and popularity, despite the fact we’ve been conditioned to believe otherwise. So it’s ok stop obsessing over it. :)

Fact is, not everyone who enjoys your content is inclined to go the extra mile and tap the like button. Or the share button. Or, heaven forbid, string together multiple letters to form an actual comment.

Yes, we humans are that freakin’ lazy. And this laziness can end up skewing your perception of how effective social media is for building your personal brand.

Here, I’ll share two personal experiences that illustrate my point:

Example #1
I’m the world’s worst at enjoying a piece of content on Facebook, but not expressing my appreciation with a like, comment or share. Heck, there are certain people and pages I’m borderline obsessed with, yet I’ve never lifted a finger to express my gratitude. While I’m not proud of this, it’s the truth. And I bet I’m in the majority.

Example #2
I’m Facebook friends with several people who also follow the Lighter Side of Real Estate. Sometimes they’ll reach out to me about how they enjoyed an article, meme or video I posted. A few times, on a whim, I’ve checked to see if they engaged on the original post. And guess what? They didn’t.

Did it bother me? YES! Does it now? Heck no! I’ve come to realize that just because a post doesn’t get engaged, it doesn’t mean it fell on deaf ears. I encourage you to come to this realization too.

Not to mention, do you really want your social media pages to look boring (or worse – abandoned) when prospects snoop on you before doing business with you? Of course not. That’s why it’s important to post quality content despite the fact that it probably won’t ever go viral.

The Takeaway

People are watching (and often appreciating) whether they “tell” you they are or not. So DON’T let your ego get bruised by low engagement. DO, however, keep posting good content… because your personal brand depends on it. And we’ve got your back if you want our help.

Mike has asked repeatedly to be called “His Royal Awesomeness”, but no one listens. So, he settles for “Chief Chuckler in Charge” of Lighter Side of Real Estate. He enjoys writing bios in third person and helping real estate agents look good online.