Knowledge Base

What Does Going Viral Mean?

As a marketer, community manager, or social media user, you probably have a pre-existing idea of what “going viral” means.

According to Urban Dictionary, something that “goes viral” is an image, video, or link that spreads rapidly through a population by being frequently shared with a number of individuals.

Surprisingly, Dictionary.com’s definition of “viral” isn’t too terribly different: Becoming very popular by circulating quickly from person to person, especially through the Internet.

While “going viral” is a relatively simple concept, defining the threshold or benchmark for when something has actually “gone viral” is complicated. There are a number of controversial factors to consider, including: number of views/shares/links, how many unique users the content has reached, the rate at which the content is consumed, and the lifetime of the content.

Some video data analysts argue the benchmark of 100,000 views, since 53% on YouTube videos have fewer than 500 views, with less than 1% having more than 1 million views. On the other hand, some analysts argue that it’s not the number of views or shares a piece of content receives; it’s purely the rate at which the content is consumed. If it receives 40,000 hits in 4 hours, but then dwindles, it could still be considered “viral”.

The bottom line is that the threshold for content having “gone viral” is relative. Regardless, in this day and age, we tend to know something has “gone viral” when we see it.

For further discussion on virality, check out my post from a while back on why making your video go viral isn’t always the answer.

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