The 5 reasons we went viral on Facebook (and what you can learn)

- September 9, 2015 5 MIN READ

NB: This post first appeared here on Jayne Tancred’s site. An edited version is reproduced here with permission.

Here’s how it’s all unfolded.

At 8 o’clock on Monday night, Flying Solo posted this meme on their Facebook page:


Almost immediately, the post went off like a firecracker, skyrocketing their already very respectable reach (the number of people seeing a page’s Facebook posts) from an average of around 80,000 people a day to just under 5.5 million within 24 hours.

At time of publication (two and a half days later) the total number of views stands at just under 14 million with more than 85,000 people clicking the ‘Like’ button, and 70,000 people sharing the image.

There’s also been a huge upswing in their number of new Facebook likers (over 1000 for the week compared to around 200 people normally), demonstrating that hundreds of people have chosen to have an ongoing relationship with Flying Solo in response to this post having crossed their paths.

The fluke that’s not really a fluke

The team at Flying Solo are understandably delighted, and more than a little surprised that such a simple post has touched such a nerve with their community.

But the truth is, this only happened because:

  1. The strategy behind their Facebook presence is extremely well-conceived, and
  2. This particular post ticks all the boxes with regard to how people behave on the social web.

Here’s some further analysis of why this particular post went viral on Facebook and has been so very successful for Flying Solo along with some questions your business needs to ask itself.

1. It fits their strategy

Suffice to say, the team at Flying Solo is very clear about the benefits to their business and their brand of having a strong Facebook presence, and the type of content they want to share with their audience there.

They’re on a mission to support their community members with content that talks about both the practicalities and the emotional realities of running a small business.

With that in mind, they’ve put considerable thought into striking a balance between posting content that’s educational and  inspiring, and content that drives readers through to their website (where they’ll hopefully become more engaged with the community at large).

That means that in amongst their daily Facebook posts relating to money, marketing, motivation and social media, there’s room for a regular smattering of light-hearted banter like the tea post above, because, even on a normal (non-viral) day, those kind of posts keep people engaged and get them talking.

Ask yourself: Is there a business benefit to my brand being on Facebook, and if so, what do I want to be known for there?

2. It’s the result of planning and investing

In order to keep a consistent balance between promotion, education and community-building right, many of Flying Solo’s posts are planned in advance.

Furthermore, their Editor Kelly, as the person in charge of content for all areas where Flying Solo has an online presence, invests a significant proportion of her time in creating content for, and liaising with, the Facebook community.

Contrast that to the impromptu, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach that many small businesses take when it comes to social media marketing, often aiming to get in there, find something someone else has posted to share, and then get out again as quickly as possible.

Ask yourself: Am I investing the time I spend on Facebook wisely and using it to pro-actively drive my business agenda? (Or am I just bumbling about, and perhaps promoting other people’s content and businesses ahead of my own?)

3. It shows they understand what’s important to their audience

Kelly may not have planned on this particular post going viral, but she has spent a lot of time thinking about what’s important to the people in her audience: what inspires them, what annoys them, what frustrates them and how their days take shape.

Even though she’s not fanatical about her tea (something I find completely incomprehensible myself), she knows that when you’re running your own business and working alone, stopping work for a cuppa is a little ritual that takes on paramount importance.

Ask yourself: How can I demonstrate to my community that I understand and empathise with what’s important to them?

4. It creates an emotional response

In a country that’s obsessed with coffee, us tea aficionados are the silent majority.

We grumble to ourselves about the impossibility of getting a decent cup of the stuff in a café (side note to baristas: the water in your espresso machine is NOT hot enough to make tea with), we take our own teabags on holiday with us because we doubt they’ll have decent options where we’re going, and we begrudgingly accept that 99.9% of the people in the world will never know how to make a brew that meets our own personal specifications.

As far as I’m concerned, these issues should be a matter of national importance. It’s always puzzled me enormously that they’re not discussed widely, and that while the vast majority of café and restaurant owners take great pains to choose and prepare their coffee, they don’t appear to give two hoots that they’re consistently disappointing their customers with the dishwater they try to pass off as tea.

So this particular Facebook post had me laughing aloud and nodding my head, and saying to myself: “Finally, someone understands what I’m going through!”

My own fixation with the nectar of the gods aside, the takeout lesson here is that if you want your marketing content to connect with your audience, it has to touch them in an emotional way.

Ask yourself: What is my community passionate about?

5. It hits the Share-ability sweet spot

On social media, a Share is the holy grail of engagement, boosting your brand visibility far more than a simple Like or a brief comment.

However, research shows that we tend to be extremely particular about what we’re prepared to share, and that our primary motivations for doing so are to entertain others and to be a good friend.

As a result, when we’re on social media, we tend to share content that’s entertaining and/or that relates to our shared experiences with others.

On the other hand, we’re also very aware that what we share on social media says something about who we are. As a result, most of us do share stuff that reinforces our sense of identity, but don’t share anything that’s overly personal or that we think will make others form a negative opinion of us. (In fact, more than 70% of us change our minds in the critical microseconds just before hitting the share button, presumably due to last minute second thoughts about what other people will think).

In this case, the tea drinkers of Australia have united behind Flying Solo’s post. It laughingly taps into both our sense of identity and our shared pain over the sorry state of affairs we tea-lovers face when unsympathetic people attempt to make us tea.

We’ve also grasped the opportunity to be a good friend with both hands: in addition to having been shared nearly 70,000 times, this post has received over 30,000 comments, the overwhelming majority of which involve a reader singling out somebody else by name that they think will appreciate it.

Ask yourself: What are the shared experiences my community can relate to? How can I talk about them in an entertaining way, and without making people feel in danger of being judged if they share my content with others?

Applying these lessons to your business

What all of this means is that if you want the content you’re creating and publishing on social media or your blog to be shared by others, you stand the best chance of that happening when you have a solid strategy behind you.

Take the time to determine:

  • what your business objective is,
  • who you’re creating your content for;
  • what’s important to them; and
  • how to frame and produce it in a way that helps build trust and confidence in you and your brand.

Have you ever gone viral on Facebook? Was it a fluke … or the result of a long-term strategy and planning?