Demystifying the Viral Post


Thoughts on launching your social content into the social stratosphere

By Ann Chen

On Columbus Day, Michigan’s Bank of Ann Arbor shared a tweet with its community that gained viral status. Referring to a Michigan and Ohio State college football rivalry, Bank of Ann Arbor tweeted on Oct. 13, “We will not be closed for Columbus Day today because Columbus is in Ohio.”

The tweet generated more than 2,000 retweets and favorites, and also was featured on ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, Fox, NBC, CBS, The Washington Post and many more national news outlets.

In a social media world where any company or individual can be catapulted into the stratospheric spotlight (Google #AlexFromTarget) based solely on a cascading chain reaction of users liking and sharing something, many companies are trying to figure out the secret formula on how to make their posts go viral. Yet often times, the answer to making something viral goes back to the basic building blocks of creating a community.

Here’s some food for thought to chew on while you’re putting together social content:

1. “Virality” won’t happen if there is no community to rally behind it. Rarely does anything shared into the social media abyss skyrocket to viral status. Often, there is a cultivated, thoughtful and engaged audience that a company has built up over time that suddenly pushes a post into social media stardom. Sometimes the day-to-day building of a community of followers and fans seems slow and fruitless, but take heart that the more you cultivate, the more it increases your chances for a viral post in the future.

2. Usually there is a social media influencer who pushes your content into the forefront. We all have certain audiences that we target, community banks in particular focus on their local communities. However, if there is someone who is well-connected and has a good amount of influence who decides to share your content at the right time, it’s a winning formula for a viral post. These influencers don’t always have to have thousands upon thousands of followers to make a post go viral; however, their audience probably pays attention to what they are sharing and, in turn, readily re-shares their content.

3. Lastly, but definitely not least, is the content of the post itself. There are many different examples of what kinds of posts go viral (babies biting each other’s fingers and grumpy cats, just to name two). However, to create a potentially viral post that also fits into your bank’s identity is the key.

Be authentic. Be genuine. Be humorous. Be witty. These are all ways to make your content stick. However, if it makes sense in your brand’s voice, it wouldn’t hurt to add some commonly viral elements into your posts just for fun.

Ann Chen ( is ICBA’s director, social media engagement.
Follow her on Twitter @AnnJ_Chen.

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