You Don’t Need To Go Viral, You Need Perceived Virality

Everyone wishes their content goes viral, like this baby Halloween costume, who got almost 4 million views in two days:

But this doesn’t always have to be the case.

India and I always have great discussions at InNetwork. One discussion we had recently was of the idea of perceived virality (a term that India coined, which I love). We often hear online conversations about people wanting to go viral. How do you use influencers to go viral? Can influence marketing be used to make my brand go viral?

What we were talking about is that brands do not need to achieve virality, but only perceived virality within a segment or target.

What is Perceived Virality?

Perceived virality is rather simple – it’s the sense of content appearing to go viral, but within a targeted or segmented network. Because a lot of people within that specific network are exposed to the content, to them, it appears as “going viral,” even if only a few hundred or few thousand people have seen/shared the content.

How Does Perceived Virality Work?

This is where it gets interesting – perceived virality works because of the overlapping relationships within a network, and the density of these relationships within a network. Let’s use Gini Dietrich, Jayme Soulati, and I as an example.

I know that Gini, Jayme, and I all follow eachother, which creates a triangular relationship between us, or a cluster. But within this cluster, there are 187 other people that are connected to all three of us, that we are also connected to. And if we were to zoom into this cluster, we could see relationships on how these 187 other people are connected to eachother.


Everyone online has a number of these clusters, which we will call the density of their networks. The more clusters you have, the more density your network has, meaning that it is highly inter-connected.


From here, you can identify key influencers or people that are most interconnected with your network, and start creating a web of clusters. Gini, Jayme, and I have a cluster of relationships, but some of these overlap between Jayme, Martin Waxman, and my cluster as well, creating overlap between our different networks.


These webs should facilitate the movement of content within networks. The more people within a cluster that see the same content, the more they have the perception of that content going viral.

How Can I Achieve Perceived Virality Within A Network?

This is where Influence Marketing and understanding the relationships within a network really comes into play. Let’s look at how DJ Thistle and I built initially to understand how this really works.

In August 2012, we decided that we wanted to start a multi-author blog about marketing, social media, and tech truth. We needed to find the best people to write for us, so we could build something we were really proud of.

We started off the first cluster of relationships with an influencer we both trusted (Robert Caruso of BundlePost). From there, we didn’t focus on finding influencers that had the widest reach to add them as a featured author to our site. No siree Billy-Bob! What we did was look at referrals. From this key influencer, and our triangular relationship, who else did we trust WITHIN our network?

So from here, we looked at who we were the most connected with. We added our own triangular relationships to the first one, and started building a web of triangles. When we reached our first 20 key people, we noticed that a lot of our networks overlapped.

Within our individual networks, we have a multitude of tiny triangles that relate to other people’s networks. With this in mind, we were growing a highly interconnected web of online relationships that we knew we could use to spread our message across. And we did! Within a few weeks, we had people saying that they were seeing SteamFeed everywhere.

Only a few months after inception, we had people thinking we were as big as SocialMediaToday (even though we were far from it). We had achieved perceived virality within a network of business professionals, because of the inter-connected webs of online relationships that we had created.

So how can you do this for your brand or campaign? Here are a few takeaways:

  • Look at a few key people within your networks that you know have built a lot of trusted relationships within their networks.
  • Within these networks, start mapping out triangular relationships between the key players.
  • Identify other key players within these triangles.
  • Start closing the gaps between the relationships by introducing yourself to all of the key players, and start developing a relationship with them.
  • Engage the key players for a campaign, and keep engaging them after the campaign.
  • If you engage enough key players within the inter-connected webs, you’ll start achieving a sense of perceived virality within their networks.
  • Add more relationships to your triangular web as time goes on.

Understanding relationships within and between networks is a key component of researching for your influence marketing strategy. By really understanding the relationships that influencer’s have between their networks, you’ll be able to identify key people to connect with, build a highly inter-connected network of influencers, and have greater chances at achieving perceived virality within a segment or target.

How much do you know about the relationships within your network? Please leave a comment below! :)

The post You Don’t Need To Go Viral, You Need Perceived Virality appeared first on InNetwork.

Daniel Hebert
Daniel Hebert is an award-winning graduate of Mount Allison University, Digital Marketing Manager at PostBeyond, and Co-founder at He has a passion for digital marketing and entrepreneurship. If he wasn’t a marketer, he would take his love for food and become a chef.
Daniel Hebert

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