Unless you’re committing a crime or want to be a hermit, we all want attention. It’s encoded in our DNA to try to gain fame and recognition, to leave our mark on the world. I’ve spent basically my whole life on the internet, and what with me being on nearly every major social media platform now, I feel I’ve learned a few key tricks to going viral. It’s a lot less about luck than you’d think. And no, promoting/spending money is not a requirement.
1. Find your platform
Not every social media platform has the same discoverability, but also not every platform lends itself to each individual. You need to find one that works for you. If you have quick, witty comments to make, go on Twitter. If you have some photography skills (and/or are moderately attractive), take to Instagram. Your ability to make decent quality content that you feel comfortable making is a big part of the puzzle.
The other part is finding where the people are, and what they want there. The monoliths that are YouTube and Facebook sit at 2 billion or more, but they’re on a decline. Meanwhile Tiktok recently reached 1 billion users and is still rising. All are good, but have different requirements in terms of what is popular. Regardless, the first step is picking your poison.
2. Watch the trends
It (almost) doesn’t matter if your content is pure gold if no one can find it. It’s important to be active on social media to see what the current popular content is. Sometimes this is related to a big event, or sometimes it’s just this week’s meme. Either way its easy to gain traction if you ride these trends. Use the popular hashtags, sounds, memes, or topics to your advantage. You don’t necessarily have to agree with the trend (some people use hashtags that have nothing to do with their post) but anything related to popular going-ons make things that much easier.
3. Make your content
Vary rarely does something go viral just from sheer luck. A big part of viral worthy content is quality and timing. Have at least mediocre equipment. If you’re recording something, no one will watch if all you see is pixels. Same goes for pictures. Written content is a bit different, but something legible is always a plus (unless you want to go viral because people are roasting you.)
Timing is a bit trickier since you could go viral for a crazy circumstance that you happened to record at your local Walmart. For the content you can plan, it’s helpful to make sure your content isn’t dated or happening during a different big trend. To be less vague, don’t post about last year’s VMAs when this year’s is currently happening.
How to STAY relevant
Let’s be real, most of us don’t want to go viral for 10 minutes of fame. A lot of us hope to cultivate a community in order to make a living. Others just…are that addicted to the attention. Either way, here are the important tips. Here’s how to keep the audience you just found from your viral content.
1. Find your niche
Most people have more than 1 interest, but unfortunately a reality of our online world is that you need your whole audience to interact with all your content if you want to stay relevant. This means producing similar content so that the same people keep boosting your work (we are in the age of remakes, after all.) This means if your content is about politics, you could lose a portion of your usual engagement if you post about video games.
To keep your numbers on the rise, cultivate your niche and find like-minded individuals. Follow your niche’s trends, find what they like, and stick to those strengths. If you really want to make a wide range of content, its best to separate that with different accounts. In fact, having separate accounts for separate content could help you cultivate two separate communities that bleed together with people that share your range of interests.
2. Stay consistent
Set up a schedule for yourself! Something you know you can stick too. Some people will tell you to just post as much as you can so more people find you, but that is the slow way of building an audience, and sometimes counterproductive. Discoverability isn’t as important as making content that your current audience will interact with.
Quality over quantity, so set up something that you know you can put out consistent quality. In fact, maybe even aim low so if you end up making an excess, you have a backlog of content to fall back on if you hit a slump.
3. Don’t get discouraged
Unfortunately, at the end of the day, all of this is a numbers game. People are more likely to like, comment, share, and follow if there’s already a large number there. There’s a comfort in the anonymity of just being one of millions. A comfort in knowing the person/thing you support is already supported. So don’t feel bad if people don’t seem to want to give you a chance, it’s not a reflection of you or your content. You’re competing against all the other content out there, and those creators have a huge head start.
It’s just a popularity contest (with things like pretty privilege being very real) and some of us are at a disadvantage, but that doesn’t mean we can’t ever get popular. The longer you go, the more opportunities you have to gain more followers. The more you try the more chances you have.
Don’t let the numbers define you. The outcome of all of this doesn’t determine if you’re successful or a failure. It’s just a popularity contest, and popularity can be pretty overrated. I like to think having made even one person feel something, even once, is a success.