How I got 250k+ views on my infographic in 1 week


By Sam Parr, organizer of Hustle Con

The Myth of Going Viral

In the summer of 2013, my team and I created a roommate-finding app appropriately named Roommates. In a nutshell, it was just like Tinder…but for roommates. After our team had built an amazingly awesome app, we needed users! To find users we ended up creating a series of infographics that were seen by hundreds of thousands of people and featured in Techcrunch, Huffington Post, Curbed SF, Venture Beat, The Next Web, The New York Observer, and dozens of other media outlets.  Our infographic for San Francisco, for example, well exceeded 250k views in less than one week.

The Myth – Dude, let’s just go viral!

It couldn’t be THAT hard right? I mean, all we had to do was create any ole’ thing, post it to Twitter/Facebook, and watch the users flock to us like startup nerds to a Noah Kagan blog post.

After years of experience, I’ve found that this is anything but reality.

But after creating a ton of infographics that have been shared tens of thousands of times and have been seen by hundreds of thousands of people, I’ve learned that there are three steps to increase your chances of creating a viral infographic.

These steps are:

  • Define your goal and target audience
  • Create irresistible and sticky content
  • Distribute so you create an avalanche

Lets dig into each step.

Step 1. Define your goal and target audience

When creating an infographic it’s important to first ask yourself “Who’s this for and why am I doing this?”

I know, I know, it sounds silly but 90% of people completely forget this first step. It’s easy to fall into the vanity trap of chasing traffic for traffic’s sake, but to go viral and make it a success you need to have a “how” AND a “why.”

Ultimately what you need to realize is that the goal is always a share, but beyond that it needs to be a sale, email conversion, or PR.

Check out Upworthy — the king of going viral. It’s pretty clear what they want – your dam* email address, and who they want it from – liberal leaning hip young folks who like Seth Rogen.

Whatever you do, make sure you have a “why” before creating your content. But whether it’s a sale or email, make sure to never be tacky or to “self-promotey”.

How we applied this to Roommates
Before creating content we knew our target was 18 – 30 year olds who living in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, and New York. The goal was to covered by a large media outlet like Huffington Post or Techcrunch and to get downloads. The easy part was that our product – an app – was free.

Did it work? Yes.

Remember: Write down your goals and target audience before doing any type of content creation.

Step 2. Create sticky content
What the hell does that even mean? I read a lot of blogs and there’s one thing SEO specialists and marketers constantly say: create good, shareable content.

I HATE when I see that advice.

It’s so bland. It’s like saying “be fast and strong” when someone asks how to run a 4 minute mile. Yeah, thanks a lot…GREAT advice.

So here’s the deal: humans are fairly predictable creatures. If you’ve read Made To Stick or Contagious then you know there’s a science to creating sticking content. And I’ve broken it down into four categories:

  • Niches make riches
  • That’s SO me
  • Names, names, names
  • Be controversial, funny, or useful

1. Niches make riches (if it rhymes it makes sense…no matter what)
When creating content, it’s easy to try and appeal to everyone, but that mindset will only guarantee failure. In fact, you should do the exact opposite, which means create something that only a small, passionate group of care about rather than appealing to a large, apathetic group.

For example, take a look at the top posts from from the subreddit r/programming. If you’re not a programmer chances are that not a single one of these article titles will make sense to you.

But check out how many times the 2nd most popular article has been shared.

408 times!

Sure, the article doesn’t  mean much to YOU, but it does resonate with a small, passionate group of people – programmers.

How we applied this to Roommates

If you don’t live in San Francisco then the San Francisco article will be pointless to you. In fact, even if you live in SF a lot of the jokes won’t make sense. To really understand each joke you need to live in the neighborhood we made fun of.

You won’t get this joke…unless you’ve lived in The Marina neighborhood in SF.  Remember: If you try to appeal to everyone you’ll appeal to no one at all. Create content that’s insightful or funny for a very small, passionate group of people, not a huge, apathetic group.

2. That’s SO me!

Similar to the Niches Make Riches theory, when writing sticky content you want readers to identify with your content to the point where they say “Wow, this is so me!” or “I know someone JUST like this.”

People want to share something that represents themselves or their friends in a funny/cool way. It’s not rocket science. It feels good to laugh at yourself. Just look at just about any Buzzfeed quiz. Title’s like “What Friend’s character are you” or “10 ways you know you’re from Boston.” People feel special when they see something that represents themselves online…and they’ll wanna share it!

How we applied this to Roommates

We created stereotypes for each neighborhood in San Francisco and predicted where they worked. Because we picked such popular employers, it was inevitable that many people who lived in that neighborhood also worked at the employer.

3. Names, Names, Names

Hoover Adams was the founder of The Daily Dunn, the local newspaper in Dunn, North Carolina. It’s one of the most successful newspapers in the country – on average, every household buys 1.12 copies (apparently couples don’t know how to share). When asked what his secret was, Adams said he’d had the same strategy for 40 years. It boiled down to three things: names, names, names.

What people wanted, Adams discovered, was to see their name and their friend’s names in the paper. “If I could” Adams once said, “I’d publish pages from the phone book.”

Hoover Adams

 A person’s name is the most beautiful sound in the world. Not only do people LOVE reading about themselves, they also love reading about the people/things they know and identify with. This concept is perhaps the most powerful on this list because the people you mention in your content will almost always share the content with their followers. I like to call these people “stakeholders.”

How we applied this to Roommates

We made sure to always specifically name employers, restaurants and people, because not only did they share the content, but their fans did as well.

Examples of how we’d name specific companies

4. Be controversial, funny, interesting, or useful

This is easier said than done and if done incorrectly you can really hurt your brand – so be careful.

When you provide value, like being funny or useful, people will share your content. For example, if you’ve found this article helpful I hope you’ll share it :)  Check out Neil Patel’s famous Advanced SEO Guides. They are crazy helpful and also extremely popular.

NEVER try to make a homophobic or racist joke. Sure, some people have pulled it off in a funny and tasteful way, but the risk of it failing is too great. And never make your content sad. It’s been proven that the most shared content is typically happy and uplifting, not depressing.


Fun tip: Need help brainstorming? Check out these places

  • Yelp: I’ve never been to New York, but I helped create a popular infographic about New York neighborhoods. I was able to do this because I read every review for the most popular places on Yelp to understand the culture. Always check out the most popular, highest reviewed, and lowest reviewed places on Yelp and read the comments for ideas.

  • Reddit: Gold. There’s a subreddit for everything. Check out the highest votest threads of the past week, month, or year for ideas.

  • Top posts from other blogs: if you have a target audience in mind, check out other blogs they read and find the top posts. Use this as inspiration.

Step 3. Distribute

Ok, so now you’ve got some sticky content. Now what?


You’re not Kevin Costner and this isn’t Field Of Dreams. One of the biggest misconceptions in content creation is if you create it, people will magically come – but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Going viral is like an avalanche and rarely an accident, once it gets started it builds up and gets bigger and bigger…but you’re responsible for the first step.

Here are my favorite three ways to distribute your sticky content:

1) Reddit/Hacker News/And similar sites

They say that Reddit is the front page of the internet…and I completely agree. The most popular memes, trends and internet jokes typical start at Reddit. With over 100 million monthly unique visitors, Reddit is a fantastic place to kick off your viral avalanche.

The key to succeeding on Reddit is finding the right subreddit. You should only post your content in a relevant subreddit, otherwise you’ll be accused of spamming.

When creating the Roommates’ infographic, Reddit was always the first place to post. But be careful…if you post too much you’ll be accused of spam, and you cannot delete people’s comments.

Other sites similar to Reddit are:

  • Hacker News
  • Digg
  • Product Hunt
  • GrowthHackers


Remember when we talked about the importance of naming specific people, places, and companies? Well, we may have had a sneaky little reason behind exactly who we named.

When creating viral content, it’s important to work backwards. Rather naming funny people in your content and hoping they’ll share, you should find people who: have a large following and you know they’ll share.

Stakeholders will naturally share things they’re mentioned it. It feels good to be mentioned online…so they’ll want others to know.

How we applied this to Roommates

We made sure to only mention people who had at least 5,000 Twitter followers. This wasn’t an exact science, but over time we realized it worked. Before launch day we’d list all the stakeholder’s Twitter and Facebook handles. When the big day came we simply Tweeted at them and post on their wall. 9/10 times people retweeted or shared with their followers.


Big Media and Influencers

Big media coverage or retweets from big names can make or break your viral launch. I like to break this category into two sections: big media and influencers.

Big media: Getting coverage from Techcrunch, New York Times, or Huffington Post can be huge. Not only will this type of coverage create a trickle down effect and convince other blogs/media to write about you, but you’ll also capture huge amounts of residual traffic months or even years after your initial launch.

The good news is that most of the journalists from big media will troll Reddit for popular stories, which is yet another reason why you should post your content on Reddit. Additionally, big media likes to follow smaller blogs for story ideas.

If you want media coverage, I suggest emailing small blogs first and working your way up the chain. This can be a tricky thing and if you want to become an expert at this then I suggest reading Ryan Holiday’s book Trust Me I’m Lying.

But beware: 7/10 times big media will screw up your article. Whether they write incorrect information or forget to link to your site, it’s important not to solely count on big media.

Influencers: Similar to big media, influencers will have a similar trickle down effect. While influencers may not have as much traffic, chances are their following is more loyal and they’re easier to contact.


So, there you have it.  This is how I was able to manufacture hundreds of thousands of views on my infographics.

Editor’s note: For more great tips on viral marketing from Sam, check out his conference Hustle Con, which is on August 1 in San Francisco.  The focus of this conference is to teach scrappy ways of doing customer acquisition.  Although it’s geared towards startup founders, who often don’t have the luxury of attention and press whenever they want, every marketer will learn a TON at this event.  You will learn about other viral marketing mechanisms, such as how Rohin Dhar, the CEO of Priceonomics, grew his blog from 0 to 2.3M monthly visitors with content creation.  Full disclosure: LaunchBit organized the conference last year and this year serves as an advisor.

      • Estella says:

        Nicht nur die Beine haben gekribbelt – wenn die Bedingungen so optimal sind wie am Sonntag möchte man einfach nur über die Strecke fliegen. Das mit dem Knie kommt schon wieder in Ordnung – ich bin da guter Hoffnung. Ich tippe auf eine Entzündung – vielleicht entstanden aus einer Ãœberlastung der vergangenen WoeiHn…ecrzlhchen Glückwunsch zum guten Lauf in Weimar! Auf geht’s nach Dresden!

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