What Makes Social Media Posts Take Off?
Three weeks ago I shared an image on my Instagram account which was automatically posted to Facebook.
It was an inspirational poster that I created on the background of a horse's glossy shoulder. The text, which was almost but not quite a poem and almost but not quite a prayer, reads as follows:
The Horse is not here
to reward your ego
to compete with you
to punish you
to control you
The Horse responds to
who you are
how you feel
what you think
what you do
The Horse is here
to enable you to learn
how to be a better You
- and that is a blessing.
The message that went with it read simply, "Sometimes people think because they "own" a horse, the horse is supposed to be an ornament or an ego booster. When things don't go the way they want, they see the horse as doing it on purpose. Not so. The horse is a gift, a blessing, one of the best pathways to personal development I know for those who recognise it as their super power. This little poster expresses some of my thoughts on the issue." ⠀
So, no big deal, I thought. Another day, another original meme, right? Wrong!!
To put things in perspective, on a good day, the organic reach for most of my social media posts is between a few and a few hundred people, with a couple of shares and a bit of engagement if I'm lucky. Not this post! "The Horse is not here" quickly shot to reach of over 10,000. Then it kept climbing, in leaps and bounds: 40,000, 80,000, 100,000. I was so amazed I kept taking screen shots of its progress.
At time of writing this article, the post's reach is 122,757 with over 1600 shares. Furthermore, that is 100% organic reach.
For once I could laugh at those Facebook prompts that say "you have a high-performing post; consider boosting it to reach 5,289 people"! Mind you, I did look at boosting it, but in the eyes of Facebook there is too much text on the image to make a paid post worthwhile and, given the fact that it had gone feral, if not quite viral, all by itself, there seemed to be little point in seeking to push it further.
Clearly "The Horse is not here" struck a chord which is still rippling outwards. It has slowed down but still grows every day. I have received more feedback and comments from horse lovers around the world in the last three weeks than during my entire 7 years on Facebook. Thanks to this one post, more than 150 new people have liked my Facebook page. (Thank you!)
Obviously I am delighted and excited. I am also humbled and a little nervous!
One of the reasons I am sharing this phenomenon with you is to help unpack what has happened here so that I - and you if you're interested - can perhaps create another post that also goes gangbusters.
So what went right?
I will share a few of my thoughts, but I'd also love to hear what you think, especially if you happen to be among those who sent my Facebook insights into orbit!
As Victor Hugo said: "Greater than the tread of mighty armies is an idea whose time has come".
So, that's my take on why it worked.
I should also mention one major lesson learned, from a social media sequencing point of view. Maybe you spotted this in my opening sentence?
It relates to the interesting question posed by the post's Facebook performance, compared to a relatively muted response on Instagram where to date it has attracted 28 likes, a few comments and reached 98 people. Yes, I have more friends and followers on Facebook than Instagram, but that does not fully explain the audience response. (The accompanying message was not optimised for Twitter, so no surprises that it didn't catch fire on that platform.)
My BIG mistake was posting this image on Instagram first. Now there is nothing wrong with Instagram - it is a great platform and I love it. So, blissfully unaware that "The Horse is not here" was destined for record-breaking reach on that fateful Thursday afternoon, I uploaded it to Instagram. From Instagram it was launched instantly (thanks to Later) onto Facebook and also to Twitter. It was only after it had clearly hit the spot on Facebook and begun its climb towards the above-mentioned spectacular reach, that I then added it to my blog.
This is a clear case of hindsight providing yet another lesson in the meaning of shutting the gate after the horse has bolted! Had I started with my blog and posted thence to Facebook, all those people reached and touched by "The Horse is not here" could have seamlessly accessed my website too. Next time!
Thanks for reading to the end. I'd love to know your thoughts.
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From a very early age I have been able to tune in to what horses and ponies were thinking and what they were likely to do next.