How do you make a Facebook post go viral?

Keep reading, and you'll find out!

Er, just kidding! Truth is, if I knew how to make any Facebook post go viral on demand, the last thing I'd be doing is sharing my secrets with you schlubs, at least not before I made my first million (or two).

That's because a viral post, whether on Facebook or any other form of social media, is worth more than its "weight" in gold when it comes to exposure, marketing, and personal and/or company branding. With everything we do on social media, "going viral" is what we hope for and certainly what we are always aiming for. And yet, if this lofty goal could be had via a few simple techniques that anyone could follow, then by definition it would cease to be a big deal. To paraphrase the theme from the movie "The Incredibles," if all posts are "special," then none of them are.

However, all that said, that doesn't mean that your posts can't do well if you do a few simple things to spur them along, nor does it mean that you can't increase your chances, low as they may be, of actually "going viral." After all, if every post reaches a decent audience with the occasional post going viral or semi-viral, you've more than done your job on social media.

You may not be able to "will" a post to going viral, but you can take some steps to swing the odds in your favor. Here are just a few:

Pay CLOSE attention to each post's aesthetics

There are many different types, of posts, from infographics, pictures, and flyers to links to even a few lines of basic text, and all can "go viral" depending on a endless possibility of situations. But if you want to help your chances, you need to make sure the post is pleasing to the eye.

If you're posting a link, be sure there's a clear, compelling picture uploaded. If the original article you are linking to has a "featured image" uploaded by the author, that image should automatically upload when you paste in the URL to Facebook. However, if there is no featured image (and for job postings, often there is not), you may need to upload one yourself. If you do, be sure it's large enough to show as a full rectangular image above the article title. If the image you upload (or the featured image on the post itself) is too small, it will appear as a tiny square on the left side of the title - NOT conducive to good optics. The ideal image size for clarity is around 1,200 x 630 pixels, but to show correctly the image MUST be not a pixel smaller than 470 x 252. (If your image is the right size but still appears as a square beside the article title when you first upload it, don't worry, it will appear correctly when you click "publish.")

When posting a link, be sure you delete the original URL from the text box before you press "post." In place of that, it helps to type a few compelling words to viewers to convince them to engage with the post. You want them to click the link, of course, but you also want them to like and/or share the post. When I'm doing a job posting I'll often write something like this: "We're looking to get the word out about some great job opportunities! If you know someone looking for assembly work in the Bristol, TN area, please pass this along or tag them to this post." The beauty of that is I'm speaking to everyone who sees the job post, most of whom won't actually need the job themselves but probably know someone who does. I'm not insulting their intelligence by posting something they don't need, but I am asking for their help so we can help someone they potentially know.

When posting a picture or flyer, be sure it looks professional, is compelling in some way, and is pleasing to the eye. Yes, I know that's vague and hard to predict. Consider this post that went "viral" for us in our Duffield, VA branch. Without putting a penny into it, this post reached over 18,000 people (more than the population of the entire town) and was shared over 330 times. With a simple request to "tell your friends" along with a simple flyer that detailed the companies we were hiring for, we were able to get the word out to essentially everyone.

Now granted, those are some pretty low pay rates (this is a rural area) so this doesn't mean everyone applied for the job, but sometimes in marketing all we can do is let people know!

Give your posts instant "Facebook cred"

While this NEVER means liking the post as your own page (please don't do that - it looks desperate and a little pathetic! :)), it does mean liking and/or sharing the post as yourself and getting the people you work with to do the same. Think of it like a snowball that needs to be pushed a few feet before it reaches the slope. If you just post something and do nothing, unless you have a page with many thousands of followers (and even then it may not work), the post will usually reach a few people and die. Facebook isn't into showing your post to everyone who follows your page. They want you to pay for that (we'll get into that later), but even more than that they want to show content that has "credibility" to their users. In other words, if nobody likes or shares a post in its first hour or so, Facebook assumes there is nothing compelling to see and stops showing the post to your audience. Which means doing the post was a total waste of time!

I've seen posts that are "liked" by just a few office staff, even three or four, reach hundreds of users, while the ones that aren't engaged with at all reach a dozen before essentially shriveling up and dying. To that end, Facebook has to have staff buy-in to work. If it doesn't, even spending money won't do nearly as well as it otherwise would.

Boost your posts

While we certainly want to get as much out of Facebook as we can for free, there's also something to be said for boosting a post to an even broader audience. Facebook lets you choose your audience by location, age, sex, interests, and even job title, all of which can help you get really specific. Typically, the best posts to boost are links to job postings with compelling text and a clear picture. Normally Facebook will not let you boost a post with too much text on the picture, so flyers are usually out (but feel free to give it a shot - the worst that will happen is Facebook could decline your boost).

Like lightning, it's impossible to predict whether your post will go "viral" or even what specifically made it happen if it does, but if you are intentional about the the way you craft the post, get buy-in from your office staff, and slide in a strategic boost every now and then, you'll up your chances tremendously.

And at the very least, you'll still reach a lot more people with your Facebook program than you otherwise would have!