Logo Franetic Horizontal Branco 2
Close this search box.

The Science Behind Viral Media: What Makes Something Go Viral?

Table of Contents

viral media
Share This Post

The Science Behind Viral Media: What Makes Something Go Viral?

In the world of social media, there’s one thing that everyone wants but very few achieve: going viral. The elusive viral post or video is something that takes the internet by storm, garnering millions of views, likes, and shares. It’s the holy grail of online content creation, yet many people still struggle to understand what makes something go viral. In this article, we’ll dive into the science behind viral media and explore the key elements that contribute to shareability.

What is Viral Media?

Before we can dig into why content goes viral, we first have to define what viral media is. In its simplest form, viral media is online content that reaches a large audience through social sharing. This content can be anything from a meme to a video to a news article. It’s called viral because, much like a virus, it rapidly spreads from person to person, infecting people as it goes.

The Elements of Viral Media

So, what makes some online content more shareable than others? While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, research shows that there are a few key elements that contribute to shareability:

1. Emotional Triggers: To go viral, content needs to elicit an emotional response in viewers. Whether it’s laughter, surprise, or anger, emotional triggers are essential to making people want to share content with their networks.

2. Novelty: People get tired of seeing the same old thing over and over again. To stand out from the crowd, content needs to have a unique angle or fresh take on a topic.

3. Social Currency: People share content that helps them look good to their peers. This may mean sharing something that’s funny or informative, or something that makes them appear knowledgeable or culturally savvy.

4. Practical Value: Content that provides practical value, such as how-to guides or tutorials, is more likely to be shared than content that’s purely entertaining.

5. Storytelling: Humans are hard-wired for storytelling. Stories that evoke empathy, connect with people emotionally, and have a strong narrative structure are more likely to be shared.

Examples of Viral Media

To better understand the elements of viral media, let’s take a look at some examples of content that went viral using these strategies:

1. Emotional Triggers: The Chewbacca Mom video is a perfect example of a video that went viral because it was funny, heartwarming, and relatable. It captured the emotions of viewers and made them feel good, which in turn made them want to share it with their friends.

2. Novelty: The Harlem Shake trend of 2013 is a classic example of novelty. It was a new and unique take on the traditional dance video, which made it stand out from all the rest.

3. Social Currency: The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge of 2014 was an example of a campaign that provided social currency. Participants felt good about themselves because they were raising awareness for a good cause, which made them want to share it with their friends.

4. Practical Value: Every year, DIY videos go viral because they provide practical value. For example, the video “How to Fold a T-Shirt in 5 Seconds” went viral because it provided a helpful tip that saved people time and effort.

5. Storytelling: The Dove Real Beauty campaign is an example of storytelling done well. The video series told the story of real women and their perceptions of beauty, which connected with viewers on an emotional level.


In summary, going viral is about more than just luck. There’s a science behind viral media, and understanding the key elements can help you create content that’s more likely to be shared. Whether it’s eliciting an emotional response, providing practical value, or telling a compelling story, there are many strategies you can use to increase your chances of going viral.


1. What is the most important element of viral media?
– Emotional triggers are often the most important element of viral media. Content that makes people feel something, whether it’s laughter or sadness, is more likely to be shared.

2. Can any type of content go viral?
– While some types of content are more likely to go viral than others, virtually any type of content has the potential to go viral if it’s well-executed and taps into the right emotional triggers.

3. How do I measure the success of a viral campaign?
– Success can be measured in a number of ways, including views, shares, comments, and impressions. It’s important to set clear goals and KPIs before launching a campaign to ensure you can track its success.

4. Is it possible to go viral without social media?
– While social media is certainly the most effective way to reach a large audience quickly, it is possible to go viral through other channels, such as email marketing or traditional media coverage.

5. Is it possible to predict what will go viral?
– While it’s impossible to predict with complete accuracy what will go viral, understanding the key elements of shareable content can help you create content that’s more likely to be shared. Conducting research on what’s already gone viral in your industry or niche can also provide valuable insights.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get updates and learn from the best

More To Explore

marketing KPI tracking

The Ultimate Guide to Measuring Marketing KPIs

The Ultimate Guide to Measuring Marketing KPIs Marketing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are crucial metrics that businesses use to measure the effectiveness of their marketing

Do You Want To Boost Your Business?

drop us a line and keep in touch