Lessons Learned from Going Viral on Facebook in 2024

Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on May 28, 2024.

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In May 2024, I had a set of images go viral on Facebook. Not just my normal level of “viral” which I would define as 10x average performance.

This one went viral, hitting 100% audience reach in just a few hours (132k) and blasting off to just under 1.4 million reach by the time it started to slow down- or about 60% the size of our city's metro area.

So in this one, I thought I'd share this particular post as a case study and dive into what the post was about, share theories as to why and how it went viral, and the aftermath of what came next.

Why Did It Go Viral?

Cornhole Golf

The post itself was a collection of five images featuring a new cornhole/mini golf hybrid game that was unveiled outside of Pittsburgh (shared to my destination site for Pittsburgh).

The post was one of the very first times this game was ever shared on social media, as the game is brand new (patent pending by the owners), and I got a sneak preview at a friends and family night before it officially opened to the public.

I have always found that posts featuring something “new” (including using that term in the copy) always had higher-than-average engagement, and that was likely part of the reason this one got its initial reach. Throw on the fact that this one was also space-themed and featured eye-catching designs, and it was all the better.

During its explosive growth, which lasted about a week, the vast majority of comments were people tagging their friends. In the end, we received 1.9k likes1.1k comments, and 1.6k shares. While we got some conventional comments of the “I can't wait to take my kids,” “looks fun,” or something of that nature, most of those 1.1k comments were someone tagging a friend or family member and many of those shares likely reached others that live in the region- a perk of having a destination site for sure.

Something new, relevant to people's interests, and in a format that would involve visiting in groups (hence a ton of tags)? That is a recipe for going viral!

$622 in Performance Bonus Revenue

Performance Bonus

One of the nice things about going viral at this particular time was that I had an active Performance Bonus campaign on my Facebook page for eligible posts. We've talked about Facebook Performance Bonus campaigns before, and, well, we have to admit we still do not know exactly how the payout metrics work.

Part of this is simply because there are far too many factors at play here, as the campaign description states, “earn bonuses for comments, shares, views, and reactions.” This is, of course, a lot of variables with no clear direction of weighting.

At the time of publishing, the post had approximately 1.4 million reach, 61,823 total engagements, 1.9k likes, 1.1k comments, and 1.6k shares and earned a whopping $622 in performance revenue (and counting).

When the post was exploding, with new reach milestones being hit hour after hour, I was pretty convinced that we were trending at around $0.50 RPM on reach. By the end, that dropped to about $0.47 RPM, but could be one element worth considering.

Combinations of the other metrics could be at play here too, as we were at about $0.15 per reactions/comment/shares. Or there is that the total engagements of just under 62,000 trends really well to about $0.01 per. Not perfect, but a lot closer than other combinations we considered for this analysis.

No matter what, at the end of the day, I cannot overstate that making $600 for sharing a set of photos isn't the worst thing in the world. This single post blew my average monthly earnings out of the water, and then some, all on one single share.

What Happened Next?

Post Insights for Viral Facebook Post

Going beyond the Performance Bonus revenue, I had some other observations on my page worth sharing. These may not be attributed 100% perfectly to the viral post because we had dozens of other posts on the page, but based on my experience, I suspect that the post had a lot to do with them all the same.

After going viral, I invited somewhere on the order of 1,000-1,500 people to like my page using the bulk invite tool. In a normal month, I would invite about 500-1,000 people based on the performance of all my posts combined, so having about a month's worth of invites on a single post was nice (albeit seemingly a bit lower than I would've hoped).

Over the course of the month, my Facebook page subsequently grew by about 1,000 followers. This page's growth can be all over the place, mostly based on how variable I am on advertising, but I would say that our average monthly growth is around +500, so a +1,000 month likely suggests some gains were made here because of this post and the invite tool.

In the past, I would've expected a viral post like this to have some uplift of future posts on our page. But with how the algorithms seem to recommend other people's content after someone engages on a post, and not more from the page of origin proper, I saw little of this at all. That said, it did seem like images perhaps had higher-than-average reach for a period of time after the initial posting. Nothing to the tune of being viral, of course, but a not-insignificant bump all the same.

After a week or two, the bot spam came in. My phone suddenly started buzzing after several accounts with clearly fake page names ripped off our profile image and started commenting on replies to this particular post, attempting to get users to log in to a scam website to claim a prize we never offered. This was clearly coordinated as it was several bots all at once, and my phone was buzzing non-stop for about 20 minutes until I could ban them all and add specific keywords to the exclusion list on Facebook.

Was that post targeted because it went viral or simply because it had high visibility and/or our page is large? I can't say for sure. But that post was clearly targeted somehow.

Finally, I have yet to repeat going viral despite attending many “new” things that could have done the trick. I had many posts do quite well, with many people tagging friends, but none explode to this level of viral. At most, the good posts in this nature hit about 30% reach, which is in line with our typical better-than-average account performance. Hitting 10x our total following? That just never happens.

So, can we really draw any firm conclusions here? I can't really say for sure. But with social networks moving to an “engagement at all costs” model, this one certainly checked a lot of boxes- broad interest, never seen before, something you want to go with friends, and a large potential audience base that could visit in a reasonable drive. All it took was a little spark and it was off to the races.

Unfortunately, repeating that spark in the current climate of social media is the tricky part, and feeds switching to more suggested/discovery based over simply seeing pages you follow is making that harder and harder. But if you can make it happen, and are on a Performance Bonus campaign as I was, well, the results aren't too bad.

Have you gone viral on Facebook recently? What observations did you make? Comment below to share!

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