How to Make Your Content Go Viral

Gini Dietrich Chief Executive Officer, Arment Dietrich, Inc.

Posted on February 7th 2012

How to Make Your Content Go Viral

We have an internal joke when a client or prospect asks us to help them create something viral.

We say, “Sure! Have two guys kick one another in the privates and it’s sure to go viral!”

The fact of the matter is, you can’t MAKE anything go viral. It’s not about how many shares you can get from your friends and family.

It’s about great creative, great content, and some fairy magic dust.

And, just because two guys kicking one another or cute puppies might work this week doesn’t mean they won’t be overshadowed the following week by a celebrity crying over a sloth.

According to an article in The Atlantic this month, companies are installing every imaginable share button on their content, writing articles, and then praying to the viral Gods that they would become overnight success because of all of the shares.

But then, surprise! An entrepreneur named Uzi Shmilovic examined eight ways Internet giants, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, have used virality as a vehicle for success.

Shmilovic emphasizes using a “Virality Coefficient” — “how many new users on average does one user of your product ‘infect’” — to measure to virality of a piece of information. A coefficient greater than one indicates exponential growth, the type that describes wildly successful Internet campaigns like the Old Spice Guy:


So now everyone is rushing to figure out what their Virality Coefficient is in order to make their videos, podcasts, blog posts, white papers, and more go viral.

The problem, of course, is “making” something go viral isn’t possible. It’s not a mathematic equation. There are human beings with emotions involved. There is nothing mathematical or scientific about that.

And, as much as we like to think everyone uses the social web, it turns out there are plenty of people who don’t. In fact, more people use email than social media, despite the growing number of users at Facebook. Most people create their accounts, spend a few days discovering what everyone is talking about, accumulate some friends, and never return.

I have a better idea. Determine your vision.  Invest some time (as in years). Work really hard. Build a community. Empower your brand ambassadors. Listen to your critics and detractors. Make changes. And someday, somewhere, you will have something that goes viral.

Everyone will think it was an overnight success because it’s the first time they have heard of you. But you’ll know the real secret.

Hard work, patience, and perseverance trump all.

Thanks to the Daily Mumbler for providing an image to prove my point.


Gini Dietrich

Chief Executive Officer, Arment Dietrich, Inc.

Gini Dietrich is the founder and chief executive officer of Arment Dietrich, Inc., a firm that uses non-traditional marketing in a digital world. The author of Spin Sucks, the 2010 Readers Choice Blog of the Year, a Top 42 Content Marketing Blog from Junta42, a top 10 social media blog from Social Media Examiner, and an AdAge Power 150 blog, Gini has delivered numerous keynotes, panel discussions, coaching sessions, and workshops across North America on the subject of using online technology in communication, marketing, sales, and HR. One of the top rated communication professionals on the social networks, Gini was recently named the number one PR person, according to Klout and TechCrunch, on the channels, and number one on Twitter, according to TweetLevel. She also can be found writing at Crain's Chicago Business, AllBusiness, and Franchise Times.
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Warren Whitlock
Posted on February 8th 2012 at 6:09PM

Just like a cold, it's easy to DEFINE what viral is. It's anything that gets passed on to more than one person on average. Passing it on to less than 1.0 on average means it will die out. 

Very difficult to find a cord cures and "making it viral" .. We know when we have a cold, but not exactly when the virus takes hold. We can engineer content all day long, but we'll miss that moving target and waste time that could have been used to create something worth sharing.

Speaking of "worth sharing" I'm sharing this post. :)

Posted on February 8th 2012 at 11:45PM

Ha! You're exactly right. Thanks for sharing, Warren!

Posted on February 8th 2012 at 11:29PM

Good points, Warren. Viral. Love the sound of it. How does it happen? I've read some great books by Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin and others in recent years about ideas or products that just take off -- even some thinking about why. But how to make it happen? Seems to be less science and more good fortunte (and art, as Dave Carroll demonstrates in "United Breaks Guitars" that I posted about elsewhere on this site).

Warren Whitlock
Posted on February 9th 2012 at 6:41AM

You don't mae viral happen. You make GOOD happen. The UBG video went viral because it was GOOD.


Every seccond you waste tyring fake viral, you are not making your content better. Just make the best possible content, see that your auience knows about it and allow them to share your good stuff.

Jason Fonceca
Posted on February 12th 2012 at 2:24AM

Ah, so good, Gini.


I kinda just synonymize 'viral' with 'good', 'quality', 'epic s***', because that's how I, and most people, measure the success of our creation.


Do we want our child to spend their entire life hidden away from society, known by 1 person? Maybe if that's their dream and what makes them truly happy.


Does that idea make anyone truly happy?


We have a LOT of time here on earth, and I believe most people, and certainly most reading this site, want to contribute significantly to a fulfilling number of people.


A certain element of 'virality' will be neecessary.


You really honed in on the roots of virality though: Having vision, focusing on it for a time, and allowing it to unfold.


Great stuff.

Posted on February 12th 2012 at 8:32AM



spoken from experience... vision, time, hard work, and luck....


Exactly what I was thinking before I read your article.  Thanks for confirming my suspicions.


Oh, btw, want to see a dog bungee jump?



Posted on May 20th 2012 at 5:18PM

FASCINATING!!, I am trying to make something go viral myself but don't have a single clue what I'm doing (any help would be so much wanted) but I am a sick girl and my dream is to meet Justin Bieber!. I have set up a Facebook group about it but atm it seems about as much use as a chocolate fireguard!! lol and I don't have the knowledge to set anything else up!. I know you can't MAKE anything go viral but I'm certain if I had the right person alongside me with this it would stand a very good chance. Peeps?.

Posted on May 20th 2012 at 5:19PM

Also do you need pictures for it?.