Social Media and Viral Posts

Viral Marketing

Public Service Messages Frequently Go Viral

We were pleased that a recent post of our Veterinary client, Animal Clinic of Morris Plains, was shared 148 times. Of these, 126 were directly shared from the original Facebook post. What’s interesting is that there must have been elements of virality or secondary and tertiary shares which resulted in the remaining 22 shares. In other words, Facebook users who saw the post in their newsfeed, continued to re-share the post onto their timeline, thereby generating an on-going string of shares.

The post itself had key elements that are known to go viral.  For instance, it included the topic of pets and how we can better protect them during hot weather, an excellent public service announcement.  Our own humanity causes us to want to share this information.  Based on our numbers, we estimate that the message had a virality of about 0.2.  We define virality as the ratio of the number of shares, each sharer produces on average.  In order to go truly viral, a sharer would have to at least replace themselves with at least one downstream sharer on average.  This corresponds to a virality of 1.0.  So had the post had about 5x its calculated virality, our mathematical model indicates that it truly would have hit the marketing jet stream, with potentially millions of shares.  What’s extraordinary is that if the post were only 4x more shareable, we calculate that it would have been shared perhaps 10,000 times, instead of millions.  That’s the incredible power of virality.  It’s like starting a fire.  If there is enough initial fuel and the conditions are right, the fire will spread until all flammable material is used up.  Otherwise the fire will simply die out after a short initial burst.  Posting truly viral content would be great for a company that marketed a national brand, but perhaps not so great for a regional veterinarian.  Think about having to field extraneous enquiries.

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When analyzing the virality of your own posts, the total number of shares (148 in this case) may be obtained directly from the Facebook business manager page.  The direct shares (126) may be obtained from the Facebook Ads Manager tool.  The exact intermediate data regarding secondary and tertiary shares is unobtainable, at least according to my conversations with Facebook, but they can be interpolated using the mathematics of exponents.  We will cover this mathematical modeling in a future blog.

The Facebook post also contained a link to the Veterinarian’s blog which received 28 visits as a result of the post.  This is another win for our client since the notoriety of his blog was increased.  Furthermore, the post received 415 likes and was seen by 12,400 people, both organically and sponsored.

Unlike local businesses, our ultimate goals for our national brand clients, indeed, are posts with a virality greater than 1.0.  That’s when a post continues to be shared until it has reached its maximum natural audience within the eco-system of the web, being shared potentially millions of times.  That’s when things get truly interesting. But meanwhile, we were delighted to assist our client in obtaining substantial extra marketing punch from this post, while providing a valuable public service message.