10 Secrets to Going Viral on Instagram


Instagram is no longer a niche social media platform for photography aficionados. Today, it is used by over 700 million people each month, and it has the power to take anonymous brands to prime time.

In order for social media marketers to be successful with Instagram, it is important to understand the secrets of creating viral content. Sometimes virality just happens, and there’s an element of chance involved. In many cases, though, virality is engineered by social media managers who understand the secrets to leveraging the platform.

This article will look at 10 secrets Instagram marketers can use to create viral content.

1. Know your audience.

As with any marketing initiative, you need to know your audience well in order to design a marketing campaign that will effectively engage prospects. When trying to create viral Instagram content, you need to know what makes your target audience tick.

Consider creating a marketing persona that will help you to quickly summarize the interests of your target audience. Usually, a marketing persona summary includes psychographic and demographic information. For Instagram marketers specifically, it will also be helpful if the persona includes the type of content your target audience likes to consume and the other Instagram accounts your target audience typically follows.

With this information in hand, you and your team will be better prepared to tackle the other tips listed below.

2. Survey the competition.

Analyze your competitors’ Instagram strategy to learn what does and does not work when creating viral content. While it is important to develop your own brand voice on Instagram (more on this later), it can be helpful to know whether content shared by a competitor has ever gone viral.

If you find content that has worked well, take note of the content format, post time and Instagram description. You should also try to determine if the brand in question collaborated with an Instagram influencer or agency. Perhaps you can work with a similar entity to create your own viral content.

Alternatively, if you notice that competitors have had limited success on Instagram, that indicates one of two things. Either competitors are simply not tapping into the target audience well, meaning that Instagram may provide your band with a first-mover advantage if you create great content. Or it could mean that your target audience does not use Instagram, in which case it is probably best to target another marketing channel.

3. Find a unique and creative voice.

Viral content is unique content. Take a look at some of the examples below, and you’ll quickly realize that content with a high virality coefficient is in some way unique. The content is almost always visually stunning, controversial, emotionally engaging or newsworthy. Content that has a clear point of view will be more likely to go viral than content that is commonplace.

In the example above, National Geographic’s picture of a husky in the Arctic received roughly 30% more likes (over 1 million) than their average post. The combination of a stunning image and great copy caused this post to go viral.

The New Yorker’s cartoons consistently get higher engagement than any other type of content they share. This makes sense, since this type of content is unique to the magazine and usually offers a quirky take on popular culture or current events.

4. Use analytics to learn follower preferences.

Just as important as understanding prospects through marketing personas is understanding your followers based on what the data tells you. Investing in an Instagram analytics platform like Owlmetrics will help you to quickly understand what kind of content performs well with your audience.

Instagram analytics can help you and your team determine what type of content is most likely to engage your target audience. Analytics can also be used to optimize your post schedule and hashtags.

5. Build a following of engaged fans.

Paul Graham, the founder of world-renowned startup incubator Y Combinator, told Brian Chesky, the founder of Airbnb, to “build something that 100 people love rather than 1 million people kind of like.” The same advice is true for Instagram marketers. It is better to have a small but highly engaged Instagram audience than to have a large audience of followers who don’t care deeply about your content.

Virality happens when people who care share what you have to say. In order to achieve it, you first need to find the people who care about your brand. If they don’t exist yet, you need to make people care about your brand through positioning and education.

6. Develop focus on photo content.

There is a feeling among some experts that video is the future of online content consumption. While it is true that video has grown in popularity in recent years, AdWeek reported that Instagram photo content generates 36% more engagement than video.

For brands interested in creating a single piece of highly viral content, chances are you will be better off focusing on photo content than video based on the data.

7. Increase the chances of virality with paid promotion.

Brands are spending an increasing amount of money on Instagram ads. That’s because brands know that Instagram users are more likely to engage with sponsored content on Instagram than on other platforms.


Marketers interested in creating viral content should consider investing in paid promotion to increase reach. Brands of all sizes are already doing this to increase the chances that their content goes viral.

8. Partner with an industry influencer.

Linqia found that 94% of marketers who use influencer marketing believe that it works. Marketers who are interested in creating viral content should consider partnering with an industry influencer in order to increase the chances of creating a piece of viral content.

It should be noted that influencers are not necessarily celebrities or social media stars. Influencers are simply individuals who garner respect among a certain demographic. For example, Jimmy Chin is considered an influencer in the climbing community, and because of this, North Face has worked with Chin to create sponsored content, like the example below.

9. Tie content into a news event.

It can be easier to create viral content if the content is somehow related to a news event. This can be a product launch (a news event created by your brand) or something related to current events.

In the example below, Nike announced a new sneaker through Instagram. Thanks to a combination of dedicated fans, well-composed content and a newsworthy announcement, the post went viral.

10. Be patient.

Creating viral content can be challenging, and it is unlikely that you will succeed in creating a viral Instagram post on your first try. It requires trial and error. Each time you will learn more about the preferences of your audience, until one day you create an Instagram post that spreads like wildfire.


Instagram is the fifth most popular social media platform in the world. Because of the platform’s popularity, brands and celebrities will have an easier time creating viral content on Instagram than on other social networks.

In order to create viral Instagram content, it is important that you know your audience and invest in analytics to measure their preferences. Creating content that is photo based, newsworthy and unique will make it more likely that you are able to create something that goes viral on Instagram.

About the author

Deep Patel

Deep Patel is a serial entrepreneur, marketer and bestselling author of A Paperboy’s Fable: The 11 Principles of Success. The book was dubbed the #1 best business book in 2016 by Success Magazine and named the best book for entrepreneurs in 2016 by Entrepreneur Magazine.

Also recognized as a top 25 marketing influencer by Forbes, Patel has worked with VC-backed startups to Fortune 500 companies. He is also a contributor at Forbes, Entrepreneur, The Huffington Post and Success Magazine.

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