View Full Version : Quantifying 'viral'

07-28-2012, 10:44 AM
'Viral' is a term we hear a lot these days in relation to t'interwebs, but I'm curious to know if there is a standard number that constitutes 'viral' - I've seen it be used for something that has garnered millions of shares, likes, downloads or views, but I've also seen it used for things that have only a couple of thousand views.

So, is there a benchmark for this term? Or is it just something that folks use to add drama?

07-28-2012, 11:53 AM
Viral refers to the way something is spread, rather than just its popularity.

If you saw something cool that a million other people have already seen, that in itself does not make it viral. It's just popular.

If you shared that something with your friends, who then shared it with their friends, and then shared it with their friends, and so on, then it's gone viral.

There is a definite correlation - the more something is shared, the more likely it is to become popular - but strictly speaking, the "virality" of something is defined by how far and how fast it has spread.

07-28-2012, 03:39 PM
It began as a set of mathematical models that epidemiologists use to study how diseases spread, was adapted to study how ideas spread, and later was adopted by marketers and distorted almost beyond recognition.

Anyway, the main factor in the formulas is the virality factor: how many persons the average patient will infect, or how many new users the average user will bring in. If this number is lower than 1, then the disease/idea/Internet meme will die down after a time. If this number is significantly higher than 1, then you will have an epidemic.

Facebook games had a very high virality factor at first, as it was very easy to spam your whole friend list with invitations day after day, and most users hadn't still built a resistance to them. Cat pictures also have a high virality factor, since they are just a click away from sharing. And this is why every blog has all those bookmarking/sharing buttons: they reduce the barrier to spreading the link.

07-29-2012, 10:51 AM
Ah, cool. That makes sense. Thanks guys