But How Do I Go Viral on Instagram?!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the phrase “going viral” lately for a few reasons (aside from the fact that I’ve had Covid all last week – slightly different kinda viral), but the main one is that I think our goals have changed with social media. “Going viral” is now the #1 priority (for most creators) and it never really used to be. If anything, going viral was just a perk or a stroke of luck, whereas I’ve noticed lately, especially on TikTok and Reels, it’s become this belief that if you post enough, you’ll eventually go viral.

It’s no longer a combination of great timing combined with great content, it’s just become this inevitable goal that you’ll reach if you just keep pumping out content. And that’s where people get frustrated, burnt out, and unhappy. This goal sets unhealthy and unrealistic expectations for people, and even more so for brands and businesses.

As a social media manager, I help businesses create good content, stay consistent, and stay relevant by trying new things to keep up with trends, etc. But if nothing ever “pops off,” does that mean I’m bad at my job?? Does that mean they have a bad product?? It shouldn’t, but somehow that’s what has become of the way we look at it.

There’s a pretty obvious herd mentality when it comes to social media too – you see something that has 200K views and you probably will automatically like it or share it based on the fact that others have, too. Take that same video and chop its views down to 800, and I bet you’d scroll right past it. I get it, but from the creator standpoint, we’re all just out here trying and at the mercy of algorithms. There’s only so much we can do to get our content out to the right people at the right time. And now with the “feed changes” I get people asking me all the time if there’s “something wrong” with their content or with IG. The answer is probably a mix of both.

So here’s my advice to you – because I have to give myself the same advice often #lol – just keep going. If you enjoy what you’re putting out there, and you find joy in the process, don’t let the response dictate your emotions. We don’t have full control over what we put out there, so expecting IG to be “the way it was” is something we have to accept and let go of. There were also way less people on the app than there are now, and breaking through the noise is just a lot more difficult. Not every post is going to be THE post. I have to reel myself in (“reel” pun intended) on that front too, so don’t worry, you’re not alone.

I truly think the main thing that’s changed with social media is how we approach it. We all put out a week’s worth of reels and think that’s all we need to do in order to go viral, so then we get upset when it doesn’t happen. We’re just setting ourselves up for disappointment instead of focusing on what brings us joy, and how we can make ourselves (or our product) better.

I’m not denying that you need to take a step back sometimes and reevaluate or analyze your numbers, but that’s part of the process and that hasn’t changed. If you ask any food blogger or Instagrammer what their content looked like when they first started in comparison to now, they probably will laugh and say something like “oh god I was terrible.” Then we learned about lighting and The Rule of Thirds and photo editing and things went up from there. We all grow and evolve and most importantly, we LEARN. If you learn from your mistakes, you’re doing it right.

Stop making virality your main goal. Let your goal be happiness and fun, or maybe education and conversions if you’re selling something. Things you can actually track. I asked one of my friends what she likes so much about posting on TikTok as opposed to IG, and she said “it’s just more fun.” And I think that’s a much better mentality (and more attainable goal) than “I want to go viral.”

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