The science behind viral social media posts: What works in 2023 & why?


A viral social media post is a piece of content that is widely shared and circulated on social media platforms, resulting in a significant increase in online visibility and engagement.

“Viral” refers to the rapid spread of a post or content online, as it spreads like a virus

It can include articles, videos, images, memes, and other types of content. A viral post can spread rapidly, reaches many people quickly, and may continue to be shared long after it was first posted. It can spread through social media like Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and other platforms.

Viral social media posts are important in 2023 for various reasons. The importance of viral social media posts are:

  • Increased brand awareness: A popular post can draw more attention to the company’s name or brand, which helps to increase traffic revenue.
  • Engagement: Viral posts quickly get many views, likes, comments, and shares. It can help a brand gain followers and a good reputation.
  • Traffic: Viral posts can send many people to a website or social media page, which is advantageous for companies.
  • Sales:  Viral posts can send many people to a website or social media page, which is advantageous for companies trying to reach a larger audience.
  • Influencer status: Viral content can help establish a person or brand as an influencer in their industry or organization, potentially leading to more opportunities for collaboration and partnerships.

What makes a social media post go viral?

Going viral has become a common expression now. Different types of content go viral based for various reasons. Some of the reasons that make social media posts go viral are listed below:

  • Emotional appeal

Strong emotional posts, such as those that trigger happiness, sadness, or rage, are more likely to be shared and go viral.  This kind of content catches people’s attention and makes it easy to grab engagement.

Emotional appeal contents are made to draw inward feelings and convince them with fallacious arguments that can be true or false.

Amazement, Joy, Lust, Surprise, Anger, and Anxiety are the appealing factors that make posts go viral.

For example: 

  • A piece of content that evokes high negative or positive emotions will likely gain much attention.
  • Controversy content that demotivates and increases rage in people and starts debates and disagreements.
  • Timing and relevance

Posting at times when users are most active on social media and creating content that is timely and relevant to current events can increase the chances of a post going viral. If the right content is released at the right time, it will quickly get reactions and reach a mass audience.

  •  Use of visual elements

Posts with visually appealing images or videos are more likely to grab users’ attention and be shared. Usually, the posts that go more viral on social media are audio videos and images.

Visual elements usually bring more traffic, clicks, and conversion. It will be easy for people to share it with their friends and families using social media.

  •  The power of hashtags

Hashtags can make a post more discoverable, as users can search for and follow specific hashtags on many social media platforms.

Although hashtags do not increase your followers, expanding the post’s reach and getting more engagements is brilliant.  Using famous trending or brand hashtags can help make the post visible to the audience.

The science behind viral social media posts

We all want our posts to get more views, likes, comments, and shares. Deep inside, we wish our content go viral. At a time when there are several intrusive social media pain points, we can only do a little to make our content viral. But we have listed the science behind viral social media posts.

1. The role of psychology in virality

Psychology plays a vital role in the post being popular. Some of the psychological factors that help the information to spread are given below:

  • Emotions: The people that make content that evokes strong emotions, such as disgust, awe, amusement, and more, have the most probability of going viral.
  • Social influence:  People are more likely to share content they perceive as widespread or widely accepted by their peers. It is the user-to-user content transfer occurring in a time-evolving social network context.

Let’s take an example of the ice bucket challenge, it was so popular on social media and everywhere, and people used to take a bucket full of ice and do the challenge.

  • Personal relevance: If any content is related to one’s personal life, it grabs an individual’s attention and is likely to be shared. It can be memes, short videos, or any content and rants.
  • Novelty: we all are attracted by unique, new, unusual content. People are curious, and those types of content gain people’s attention and have higher chances of going viral.
  • Practical value: Contents with information about something or solutions to problems can be spread widely and are likely to be shared.

2. The impact of social influence on virality

Individuals’ impact on one another’s beliefs, feelings, and behaviors are known as social influence. As people are more likely to share or interact with the content, they see their friends and peers engaging with, it is important to decide how viral a piece of content will be.

People may believe something must be valuable or entertaining if they see others sharing it, known as the “social proof” effect.  The social proof effect could make those people more likely to spread the content themselves, boosting its viral potential.

Some people who want to fit in a group or desire to be known as smart, up-to-date, helpful, or supportive can also drive social influence.

3. The role of algorithms in promoting viral content

The algorithm is one of the main factors in promoting viral content. It helps surface content to a particular user based on various factors, such as their past behavior, interactions with friends, and the content people share in their network.

Various social media algorithms, such as the Google algorithm, Facebook, and other Instagram algorithms, help increase traffic to different content.

The various roles of algorithms in spreading content.

  • Algorithms can boost the visibility of viral content by displaying it to a bigger audience.
  • It can help users find and share viral material by suggesting or displaying it at the top of their feed.
  • It helps to increase the visibility and ease of sharing viral information.
  • Algorithms can improve the popularity of a piece of content by increasing its chances of being viewed and shared by many people.
  • The elements algorithms use to decide which material to show and promote our engagement, relevance, and the activities and behavior of the user’s network.

Case studies of viral social media posts

We have researched the viral social media post that went viral at different times. The reason that went viral was unique ideas, the right timing, and several other factors. Let’s have a brief study about some of the viral trends.

1. The “Ice Bucket Challenge.”

The “Ice Bucket Challenge” was a viral social media campaign in 2014 to raise awareness for a disease named ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis). The challenge involved people filming themselves dumping a bucket of ice water over their heads and then nominating others to do the same.

If the nominated person did not complete the challenge within 24 hours, they were supposed to donate money to the ALS Association. The challenge went viral on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, with people worldwide participating.

The challenge went viral on Facebook, with people all over the globe participating. Many celebrities and public figures also took part in the challenge, which helped to increase its visibility and reach. It is one of the most popular social media trends.

The campaign was successful in raising awareness for ALS, as well as funds for research into the disease. It is estimated that the “Ice Bucket Challenge raised over $100 million for the ALS Association.

2. The “Mannequin Challenge”

The Mannequin Challenge is a viral social media challenge that swept the internet in late 2016. It involved people filming themselves standing perfectly still in various poses while music played in the background. The trend went viral on Twitter, with people worldwide participating.

High school students in Jacksonville, Florida, started the trend, swiftly catching on on social networking sites, including Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. The hashtag #mannequinChallenge was so popular back in those days. Even big celebrities and big sports teams used to participate in the challenge.

Politicians, armies, and astronauts stationed in International Space Stations were among the various participants in the challenge. The Mannequin challenge is one of the notable viral trends, even though it has faded away.

3. The “Tide Pod Challenge”

The “Tide Pod Challenge” was another social media trend that went viral in 2018. It involved people filming themselves eating Tide brand laundry detergent pods, which are small, brightly colored packets of detergent.

The challenge was dangerous, as ingesting the detergent can cause severe injury or death. The challenge went viral on social media platforms and was widely criticized by public health officials and others.

How to create a viral social media post?

Creating a viral social media post takes work, and it is unpredictable. It is not guaranteed that your social media post will eventually go viral after putting an emotional appeal and trying to follow the trend. Sometimes it will work; sometimes, it doesn’t. Here are some tips and tricks that can help you to make your post viral:

  1. Research your audience

Understanding your audience and their preference for content is the first step to reaching a mass audience. Identify your target audience and understand their interests, preferences, behaviors, and market trends. It will help you create content that resonates with them and is more likely to be shared.

  1. Post the right content at the right time

Consider timing and frequency, as posting at the right time, and frequency can help increase the visibility and reach of your post.

Be authentic and genuine in your content and interactions with your audience, as this can help build trust and credibility and make your content more shareable.

Analyze your target audience, and make content related to that. Find the right time and schedule the post. You can use social media tools like Sprouts social, Publer, and Hootsuite to schedule times to post.

You can analyze the competition and popular posts and make better content to surpass the competitors.

  1. Make emotional appeal

By creating emotionally appealing content, you can get people to share your content with their friends and followers.  Here are some ideas for your content to make an emotional appeal:

  • Choose a strong emotion: Consider the feelings you wish to arouse in your audience. Happiness, sadness, wonder, and rage are some emotions that are frequently included in viral content.
  • Tell a compelling story: Content that touches people’s hearts or tells a story they can relate to will be shared more frequently. Consider using narrative tactics like characters and plot to establish a deep emotional connection with your audience.
  • Try to keep your content as positive as possible, even while discussing difficult or controversial subjects. Depressing or negative content is less likely to be shared than content that makes people feel good.
  1. Create authentic, attentive, informative content and use hashtags

Create authentic, attentive, and informative content after researching your audience. Consider any topics or subjects they might be interested in, and include useful and reliable information in your content. Pay attention to current trends and fashion trends and any comments or feedback you get.

Hashtags can be used to increase your material’s visibility on social media platforms. Try to utilize appropriate and exact terms when coming up with hashtags so that users searching for your topic can find your content.

You can make eye-catching images and videos as there is a science behind virality infographic images and videos.

Avoid overusing hashtags because they may come out as spam and impact the value of your material. Instead, focus on using a few well-chosen hashtags relevant to your content.

  1. Partner with the right influencers and creators

Social media influencers and partners have many followers, and their posts have lots of engagement. Contact influencers and producers who share the values of your company and its intended audience.

You can do this by emailing them, contacting them through their website or blog, or sending them a direct message on social media.

Collaborate with the influencer or creator to develop a unique and interesting social media post that will appeal to your audience. This could be a sponsored post, a product review, or a fun challenge or contest.

  1. Follow current trends

You can benefit from viral moments by becoming involved in online culture and updated with trends. It can help you to reach a larger audience and engagements by following the trend.

Create your content with current affairs and what’s trending on the market, including social media, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and other platforms.

With the rise of TikTok, you can make creative content and reach a larger audience. TikTok and Instagram reels are the platform for short content and has high engagement in recent days that you can take advantage of.

You can use this information to fine-tune your future influencer partnerships and social media campaigns.

It’s important to remember that not all viral moments are positive, and it’s important to be conscious of the content you create and share online.

It can be helpful to test out various strategies while experimenting and testing to determine which ones are most beneficial for your audience.  You can reach a larger audience in different countries using an international virtual phone number to increase your market.

To identify which form of content generates the highest engagement, you might experiment with posting at various times of the day, using various types of visuals, or utilizing different types of visuals. You can learn more about what works and doesn’t by testing and evaluating the findings.


Everybody will want to buy and use your product and brand if your content goes viral. Creating a viral social media post helps you to reach a larger audience and get engagement and traffic. It costs you little money to reach the audience; your brand is everywhere on the feed.

Although going viral is not always good. You can also go viral for negative reasons. You should be careful while creating content and be conscious of the audience’s needs.

In the future, viral social media will likely continue to be an important part of online culture. As social media platforms and audiences’ mindsets evolve, the types of viral content can also change. You should be up-to-date and follow the latest trends to create viral content.