How to go viral. Is there a formula? I certainly see patterns, but many of those patters involve an element of luck and the magic of being in the right place at the right time, and you happen to be filming. But here are my observations as a part aspiring musician and part social media specialist who has gone viral on TikTok three times.

You either mock this app, or you have no clue it exists, either way, you are sleeping on it. Wake up before you miss this rocket ship. TikTok, formerly known as is headed to the moon. I started a TikTok account after listening to Gary Vee discuss the 80/20 principle in regards to efforts on social media. Meaning we should be putting 80 percent of our energy into the main driver of business and exposure, which for me means Instagram, and the remaining 20 percent of effort split evenly between the rest of the apps.

How TikTok Works

It took me a while to understand how TikTok users consume content, but once I realized the main source of consumption, I got really excited. There is a feature called the “For You Page”. It is where basically all of TikTok users spend their time, and if you get on the For You Page (FYP), you can quickly gain millions of views, hundreds of thousands of likes, 10’s of thousands of shares and comments, and that is only the start. Once other apps see a video doing well on TikTok, viral accounts from these different apps, like Instagram, grab up those videos and feature them on their accounts that have millions of followers. I like to compare TikTok to what YouTube used to be when it first arrived in 2005 – The wild west of viral exposure. Justin Bieber anyone!?

Anatomy of the For Your Page

The goal is to get on the FYP. The goal is to go viral. The way the FYP works, from what I have read is, TikTok sends the video to batches of people on their FYP, and if it gets a certain ratio of engagement, TikTok places in front of more and more people, and then virality hits. How to do that? I’ve posted 77 videos, and 3 have found their way to the FYP. There are several ways to try: TikTok is comprised of hundreds of trends, usually started by the users themselves.

For the sake of my niche, singing, there are singing trends that you can try to hop on, which usually include a distinct run, hook, or riff. There are “sounds” that are popular to dance to, lip-sync, and put your own spin on. There are cheap ways to get on the FYP, like saying “click like three times and the heart will turn purple” but I don’t think those create any long-lasting leverage as far as fans and exposure go. I have not had any success with trends, however, the best trends are the ones you start and that is exactly what happened with the video below.

An Example of Viral Success

The viral post I will use as an example currently has over 5.3Millions views (on TikTok), over 74K shares, 3.3K comments, and we started a trend called #makethisnoise which collectively has nearly 300million views.

@mrliamstjohnMake this noise with your mouth. 😂 #makeittrend #makethisnoise♬ original sound – mrliamstjohn

Peter, who is my best friend, best man, and also my boss, and I created this game, where we would find something that makes a distinct noise, then go up to each other and say “hey, make this noise with your mouth.” The person attempting the noise always ends up looking and sounding so funny and awkward, and it makes for a really fun time, and a good laugh. We introduced this game to all of my friends at my bachelor party. Below is why I think it went viral as it did.

Wholesome and genuine

We were a group of lifelong best friends, completely comfortable with being our true, vulnerable selves in front of each other. In fact, making a fool of ourselves is usually encouraged when we are all together. There was no judgment from anybody towards anybody, and no reservations, we just were being ourselves. Many of the comments are commenting on how all in we are going, how concentrated we are, and how hard we laugh, all things, I think can only happen, when you feel you can be yourself around others. I think that is something everybody desires to have and be a part of. Not everybody gets to be themselves, and not everybody has friends that embrace their weirdness and even encourage it.


This game exists because you never know what is going to come out of the other person’s mouth. Especially when they aren’t reserved, and go all in, anything can happen. In this video, Peter flopped a bible open, and I, with the full force of my entire body, tried to replicate it, and something from a different universe came out of me haha. Peter tried to turn himself into a crushed ginger ale can, and kind of nailed it haha. Austin is part Powerade, I am pretty sure because he was spot on and effortless.


I think another appealing thing is how ingenious this game is. Anybody can play it and have a good time, but nobody had thought of it until we posted this video. A lot of the comments involved users tagging their friends saying WE HAVE TO DO THIS.

So, is there a formula for going viral?

I think that these elements certainly are the key ingredients, but you can’t fake being wholesome and genuine, you just have to be that. You can’t plan unexpectedness, but being wholesome and genuine definitely increases your chances of experiencing something memorable. You can certainly be original. So, go make best friends and make cool things.

Ingredients to Going Viral

About the Author

Shannon Winant
Social Media & Content Marketing Strategist

Hey y’all! I’m Shannon, the social media & content marketing strategist here at Sproutbox. I help our clients find their tribe, connect with them, and elevate them. When I’m not creating lookalike audiences, you can find me rolling my ankle on a run somewhere in PDX, or belting the blues into a microphone somewhere.