What Does it Mean to Go Viral?

Going viral. You’ve probably seen posts on social media platforms like TikTok blow up overnight, or maybe you’ve seen YouTube videos gain traction within mere hours. Going viral on these platforms is often a mix of intentional content creation skill, creator attention to the target audience and latest trends and knowledge of algorithms. 

But what does podcast virality look like? This article examines the different aspects of podcast virality, including podcast metrics and social media. Podcast virality can take place across platforms, resulting in not only increased listens and downloads for a viral podcast episode, but also increased activity on social media accounts associated with the podcast. 

Sudden attention 

Podcast virality is characterized by sudden attention. While regular podcast-listening activities might occur more consistently over a longer period of time, virality happens in a shorter time span. Still, fast growth can look different for every creator. Some podcasters might experience heightened attention overnight that runs over into the following days and weeks before tapering off. Others might experience attention that builds over a few days and reaches a peak within a week.

Depending on the reasons for why the podcast goes viral, the sudden attention can have positive and/or negative consequences for a podcast. For instance, some podcasts might go viral for coverage of controversial topics. Others may go viral for host personalities or popular guests.   

Notable podcast metrics

A creator can examine podcast metrics for tangible evidence of virality. Sometimes specific episodes of a podcast might go viral, which can lead to the show itself gaining widespread attention. Other times the whole show gains attention. 

Creators can begin to decipher where audience attention lies by looking at the podcasts’ metrics. Episode downloads, listens per episode and average listening time can help creators determine what episodes are currently the most popular. From there, creators can determine what episodes are the next most popular, and which ones are the least popular. Doing so provides a better understanding of what specific content themes have become viral with audiences.

Increased social media activity

Podcast metrics aren’t the only way to measure podcast virality. In fact, social media often plays an integral role in making a podcast go viral—and oftentimes, podcasts go viral from being shared on social media. Soundbites and video clips from a podcast can be shared by fans on various social media platforms, like TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. 

As podcast social media channels or content begin to gain attention, the podcaster’s social media accounts can experience sudden growth. Creators might receive an exponential amount of new followers and subscribers. Increased activity on a podcaster’s social media channels can drive traffic on the podcast platform (Spotify or Apple Podcasts, for instance) and website.

Going viral looks different for different creators

It’s important to note that podcast virality looks different for every podcast. Comparing your own metrics and media attention against other podcasts with different goals and audiences won’t be helpful for determining what “going viral” will look like for you. Further, periods of virality may vary depending on a variety of factors, such as relevance of content to audience, relatability and timeliness. 

Podcasts go viral for many reasons. Some due to a dedicated fan base, others because of timely commentary on tough subjects, and some for their hosts and notable guests. Overall, achieving podcast virality requires audience understanding—knowing how to speak to the specific interests of a group of listeners. 


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