Viral Content: You never know
where a piece of content will go

Your content can travel. Whether it’s ‘viral content’ or not, you never know who your message will reach.

On the 26th of January 2019, my now-fiancé Mark decided he would propose. He told me that we were going to spend the day at Whitehaven Beach, in the Whitsundays. The only way to get over to the beach was by boat

On the way over on the boat, we met a lovely American couple. We started chatting away and giving advice on what to see while in Queensland. As the day went on we became fast friends, so of course, we connected on Facebook and Mark and I told them that if they needed anything while they were here to get in touch.

Of course, I hadn’t realised that Mark was about to propose! And when he did, our American friends were privy to the entire moment. Well, they did what many of us would do and immediately jumped on Facebook to offer their congratulations on our engagement. But, we hadn’t even told our families yet!

There was very spotty internet service at Whitehaven Beach and on the boat, and as we rushed back to our hotel desperate to get some service so we could do a bit of damage control, the post was already making the rounds amongst our loved ones. And there was nothing we could do about it.

So, in the end, our engagement was announced by people that we had only met that day!

Viral Content — it’s both good and bad

The Bad

We sometimes forget the power that content has. It can travel through social media like the common cold, taking down everything in its path. And it can happen when you don’t have control. While our engagement wasn’t necessarily ‘viral’ in the strictest sense of the word (it was an online sensation, but just amongst our contacts), it was still content that was taken out of our hands… and out of our control.

There are plenty of examples of social media sharing of content that is ‘bad’ or bad for the company involved at least. Dove, when they recreated their bottles into the shape of women is one example. Or when Uber tried to undercut taxi drivers in NYC. This is content that was badly timed and poorly managed and was soon out of control.

The Good

On the other hand, content that travels is equally powerful, and in this case beneficial, for digital marketing. Many of us feel like we’re just putting up content for content’s sake. At times it can feel we’re talking into an echo chamber. You might feel you have no traction, but it takes no time for that to change.

Today, we are more connected than ever. You never know where something will go, or when your message will be the one to spread like wildfire. There are so many examples of this — National Geographic’s Planet or Plastic? cover and the ALS ice bucket challenge among them. When you put out content that resonates with your audience’s hearts and minds, you’ll see your reach expand exponentially.

A virus is generally considered a bad thing because it replicates itself and in the process spreads disease throughout the body. But vaccinations take these same qualities and harness them to spread virus-fighting antibodies instead. Our content works in the same way — when it spreads your message and resonates with your audience, it’s a great thing.

Be patient

When we put out content and get very little response from it, it can feel like we’re speaking to an empty room. Pointless and discouraging. But be patient. The first time you publish a post on LinkedIn maybe only your mum will like it. But the second time, maybe it will be your mum and your mum’s friend. The third time, it might be your mum, her friend and two of her friend’s colleagues. Your reach is compounding over time.

As Seth Godin says, ‘It takes three years to be an overnight success, sometimes more.’ Just keep creating content consistently, and you will see growth.


  • Be mindful of your message.
  • Be consistent.
  • Be patient.

I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Jane Anderson is a strategic communications expert, speaker, and author of seven books including the upcoming Catalyst Content. With over 20 years of experience helping people to communicate confidently, she is obsessed with authentic influence and human connection to drive business growth in a world of disruption and automation. She delivers Content Creation Bootcamps (Virtual and Face to Face), Coaching and Keynotes. To inquire about her working with you or your organisation please contact us here.

Originally published at on Nov 19, 2020.