The Secret Ingredient To Viral Facebook Posts

by Jason Keath on Oct 16, 2012
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Facebook is a feeding frenzy of news, photos, notes from friends and in general an endless river of engaging content.

And here is the bad news.

It gets worse every day as more and more businesses get on Facebook, all competing for the same space in user newsfeeds.

So the question becomes, how does a business stand out? Especially when so many Facebook pages are seeing less reach.

And even harder, how does a business consistently stand out, and break through the Facebook river of noise?

One cruise company is doing a pretty amazing job of breaking through that noise. And they have one very simple secret that helped one specific piece of content get seen by over 160,000 Facebook users.

First, let’s look at the Facebook post in question. is one of the largest sellers of cruises on the internet. They sell vacations and their Facebook page focuses on “Likeable Travel Pics, Cruise Advice & Exclusive Cruise Deals.” They have fun with images, share enticing photos of tropical vacations, and they include a lot of short links in image captions to capitalize on the interest in their Facebook content.

The image above was one of their most successful Facebook posts ever. And it worked because of a few simple reasons.

What was their simple secret? Relevance.

In addition to relevance has a keen understanding of how to quickly create engaging content on Facebook. Let’s take a close why at how this post worked so well and see what lessons your business might be able to take away.

1. Keep It Simple does not have an agency running their Facebook page. Rich Tucker, who I interviewed about the success of this post, is the Social Media Manager at Travel Leaders Leisure Group, the parent company of He works on other websites that Travel Leaders owns. And he works on way more than this one Facebook page.

So he does not have an agency. He does not have a creative team of designers and copywriters. And he does not even get to work on this one brand or on Facebook full time.

So with these limited resources, they make what they do have work well for them.


When looking for images, they work with what they have.

“Luckily I cruise a lot and take lots of pics.. we also use creative commons Flickr images that allow commercial use and adaptation and attrbute to the owner either in the copy of the post or on the image.  We regularly reach out to Flickr owners for permission to use their images.  We also have several good Twitter friends who cruise and are pro photogs and we feature their images,” said Tucker. uses Photoshop to create their images, a pretty expensive software. But this same image can easily be created using free online options like or, among many others.

“Many of our text images were created by our talented SM intern +Sara Beth Jones” Tucker added in a Google Plus conversation we had about their images.


No insult to, but their copy is very simple and to the point. They ar sharing an image of cruise ships in beautiful caribbean water. They are comparing this to the annoying political arguments that so many in the US currently see on Facebook for the presidential debate. And they give their fans a simple call to action.


They know cruises, they know their customers, and they know their value proposition, namely escape from everyday toils and stress.

2. Relevance (and timing)

The date on this post is the key here, October 3rd, the day of the first presidential debate.

Not only did they post it on the day of the debate, they posted it during the actual debate at 9:30pm on the east coast, about a third of the way through the live event. When 50 million people were tuned in, many of them following along on Facebook.

They likely posted this at the absolute best time they could, when it was most relevant to their Facebook audience.

Building Off of Candy Corn

When trying to stand out on Facebook it is important to take whatever lift you can get. Current events and cultural touch points (College Humor calls these Candy Corn) allow you to build off of existing knowledge already relevant to your fans.

Everyone knows what candy corn is, even if we only see it once a year. It is ingrained in us and we can recall it, connect it to memories, pretty quickly. Current events often live in our brain in a similar way.

Everyone on Facebook knows what was talking about because there are billions of dollars flooding the US airwaves (and internet) pushing out messages about the presidential election.

When asked about how they prepared this specific post, Tucker let us know that they created the debate image the morning of the debate “primarily because I’m getting tired of all the political arguing on Facebook so I knew others had to be too.” Tucker added that post also worked because it was about Facebook “on Facebook people love to talk about Facebook.”

Not Scheduled

When it came time to publish this post, did not schedule the update earlier that day. Tucker pointed out that they waited to post it when it felt right.

“I monitored my friends posting about the debate for about 30 minutes, and as anticipated the debate was taking up a majority of what everyone was posting.  So I manually posted when it felt like a good time based on activity I was seeing.  It ended up being a great way to add cruising into the conversation during the debate.”

Working The System

We mentioned that Tucker and were resourceful, and using images from their community is just one example. This last tip is best left to Facebook Ninjas.

When current events become popular on Facebook, they tend to get lumped together to spare our newsfeed of being dominated by one topic. So what you will see are 2 or 3 posts discussing the presidential debate, for instance, and then a link to “see all 15 posts on this subject.”

Tucker told us that they got around this issue by not including any text with their post.

“By having no copy in the status update… just on the image we did not get bunched with all of the other posts about the same subject.  So we were topical and relevant but Facebook can’t lump us in with the other posts on the same topic because our copy is on the image.”

Viral Proof

Relevance, keeping it simple, and being resourceful were all very important skills for to achieve such a large engagement percentage. But these key steps also produced a large viral push behind their post.

If we take a closer look at their numbers, we see a very large number of shares (over 1,000). This resulted in a large portion of the people who saw this post being friends of fans.

For a page that has 90,000 fans, reaching over 160,000 Facebook users is a huge win.


Has your Facebook page had a post go viral like this?

Was relevance a big part of the reason why? Let us know in the comments.


Post Author

CEO and founder of Social Fresh, the social media education company. Jason is a social media consultant, a social media speaker and industry analyst. He consults with corporations and agencies on social media strategy, building community, and influencer...