4 Essential Ingredients to Going Viral

Written by Paul Steinbrueck

going-viralAuthor Frank Viola recently published a thought-provoking post How I Got 350,000 Pageviews on My Blog in One Month. What caused his blog to break all previous traffic records? His post titled “Bono on Jesus” went viral, gaining 3,000 retweets and 45,000 Facebook shares.

From that experience Frank shared what he believes are the 4 ingredients necessary for a blog post to go viral:

  1. Write a post about a celebrity or a hot issue that has the nation’s or world’s attention.
  2. Title it with an intriguing heading.
  3. Make sure the post contains quality content – meaning, it’s unique, helpful, thought provoking, and/or controversial.
  4. It must be picked up by at least one person who has a HUGE platform.

My analysis…

I really appreciate that Frank took the time to write this post and share his observations. He is not a professional marketing guy, but he has done an exceptional job in recent years of building his platform. He’s obviously intentional about tracking results, and it’s great that he risk going a little off topic to help his readers expand their reach.

1) Those are the 4 ingredients.

I think Frank is on target with the 4 ingredients to going viral. And since most of us don’t have a lot of celebs reading and retweeting our content, there’s a bit of luck or Providence involved in #4. Or at least it may seem that way, but more on that later…

2) Going viral is not the Holy Grail.

Everyone wants to to have a blog post or video go viral but then what? Some people mistakenly believe having a blog post go viral will take them to a new level and traffic will only go up from there. But the truth is most of the time a viral post just generates a spike in traffic. And if all you end up with is a momentary spike in traffic and then its back to normal, so what?

I’m going to take a wild guess that you’re not blogging purely for the pursuit of 15 minutes of fame. You have a cause you’re trying to advance, a purpose bigger than yourself, a business or ministry you lead. Having a post go viral is great, but only if it helps move you towards the goals you’ve already established for yourself or your organization.

So, how is a viral blog post going to help move you towards your goals? Is it going to produce an increase in subscribers, members, leads, or clients?

My point here is really two-fold:

  • A) Don’t pursue virality (is that a word?) for its own sake
  • B) Design your blog and craft your content so that if it goes viral, you’ve got calls to action that will help you leverage that viral event to advance your goals.

3) Strategically pursue the S curve

If you are fortunate to have a blog post go viral, the important thing is not how high the spike in traffic goes, but where your traffic and subscribers settle out to afterwards. For example, a temporary 100% spike in traffic that produces a 25% increase in subscribers is far more valuable than 1000% spike in traffic that nets a 1% increase in subscribers.

Earlier I mentioned that getting a blog post shared by someone who has a huge platform may seem like a matter of luck or providence, but it doesn’t have to be. There are strategic ways you can make this happen. But I think this post is long enough, so we’ll pick up that topic in a future post.


  • Do you agree with the 4 ingredients necessary for a post to go viral? Would you add or remove any ingredients?
  • To what extent do you think having having your content go viral would move you towards your goals?

About the author

Paul Steinbrueck

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.


  • Thanks Paul. Good post.

    The "Bono" post now has over 52k FB shares. However, upon comparing the subscriber stats to previous months, I don't see any perceptible difference in subscriber increases, which I find quite interesting.

    The "John Lennon" post that I published a few days ago hasn't gone viral at the time of this writing. It's because no one with a huge platform has shared it. At least at the moment.


    Psalm 115:1

    • Thanks for the comment Frank. The two questions that come to mind are…

      1) What can be done to increase the likelihood a huge platform will share a post?
      2) What can be done so that when a post goes viral more first time visitors become subscribers?

      I'm going to write about #1 in the next post and want to ponder #2. I'd love to hear any ideas you or other readers have on either question.

  • I don't know the answer to either question … so I look forward to reading your thoughts on them.


    Psalm 115:1

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