How to go viral on Instagram: Proven strategies for your brand

You want to know how to go viral on Instagram.

We’ve seen brands and influencers become overnight sensations on the platform.

It’s no surprise, considering there are 2 billion monthly active Instagram users looking for unique, engaging content on the app.

But going viral on Instagram is far from easy. Thankfully, it’s possible if you follow some proven tips and best practices.

In this article, we’ll walk you through 11 tips for how to go viral on Instagram.

1. Know your audience

Understanding your target audience on Instagram will help you create more relatable content that’s more likely to go viral.

Below are some ways to identify your Instagram audience:

  • Study your buyer personas. If your company has existing data on your ideal customer profiles (ICPs) and buyer personas, start there. Find Instagram audiences that share characteristics with your brand’s customers.
  • Look at your Instagram analytics. If you’re already using Instagram for business, go to your analytics and look at audience demographics. This will show you what kind of people are following you and engaging with your posts. You can also use Sprout Social’s reporting tools to dig deeper into your Instagram audience data.
  • Find your competitors’ audiences. Not sure who to target? Head over to competitor Instagram accounts and study their followers. Chances are these people are your target audience as well.
  • Use social listening tools. Track online conversations around your brand and niche using a social listening tool like Sprout Social. This will help you identify not only your audience but also any influencers you can partner with to boost your content.

Once you’ve narrowed down your Instagram audience, understand their interests, goals and habits. Study the accounts they follow and the posts they interact with.

All of this will give you a solid idea of what kind of content is sure to be a hit.

2. Keep an eye on trends

Trends on social media change fast, and Instagram is no different. Marketers need to quickly jump on new trends to create viral content.

Whether it’s posting more videos, using new content formats or adding trending music to your Reels — if it’s going viral, you need to get on it.

For example, a recent Instagram trend is the increased use of Instagram Reels — the bite-sized, vertical video format inspired by TikTok.

Reels generate more engagement than regular videos on the platform, which make them perfect for going viral.

Other trends we’ve spotted this year include using link stickers in Stories, leveraging story ads and cross-promoting Twitter posts.

3. Establish a unique brand voice

The key to standing out on Instagram is to be creative and authentic.

For businesses, this means finding your own voice that’s unlike any other brand. One that also resonates with your target audience and keeps them engaged with your content.

BBC Earth offers an excellent example of what establishing a unique and creative brand voice can do for you on Instagram.

They consistently share stunning visuals with informative captions that are also humorous and relatable at the same time. Talk about non-boring educational content!

The result? Viral posts with thousands of likes, comments and shares.

4. Audit your own posts

Conducting an Instagram audit is important so your new strategy to go viral doesn’t clash with your existing posts and branding.

It will also help you identify gaps to work on before posting new content. Maybe your captions need work. Or maybe you need to align your bio and profile photo with your brand to look authentic and professional.

Whatever it is, fixing any issues with your current aesthetic, brand voice and content will increase the chances of success for your future posts.

5. Study the competition

If you need help coming up with ideas for viral content, turn to your competitors. Analyze their posts and find out what’s working for them.

  • What are their top and worst performing posts?
  • What’s their brand voice like?
  • What kinds of formats do they use?
  • How do they engage with their audience?
  • What days or times do they post most frequently?

Sprout’s Instagram Competitors Report can help you gather, visualize and analyze this data from a single dashboard.

Use the insight to fuel your own creativity. Of course, this doesn’t mean you start copying your competitors. Think of it as starting on the right foot.

You may even borrow some ideas as long as you add your own personality. Be careful of copyright infringement and stay true to your brand voice.

6. Engage with other accounts

Get noticed on Instagram by actively engaging with your audience. The more you show up in people’s feeds and notifications, the more exposure your profile and posts will get.

Plus, customers love brands that walk the extra mile and treat them as individuals.

And let’s not forget the Instagram algorithm rewards posts with high engagement and shows them more frequently on the Explore page.

So, ask questions, add calls-to-action and encourage interaction in your posts and captions. Also, don’t forget to respond to audience comments — both positive and negative.

7. Use analytics to learn what worked before

Analytics help you make data-driven decisions about everything — including developing viral content. The result? More chances of success.

Use Instagram’s built-in analytics to track key metrics related to engagement and follower growth. Learn about what worked in the past, what didn’t do so well and what kind of posts and stories are usually a hit with your audience.

Looking to go in-depth? Use a third-party analytics tool like Sprout Social.

You’ll get access to granular Instagram metrics, visual reports and the ability to track analytics for competitors and multiple accounts.

8. Recreate viral content

This is probably the easiest way to go viral on Instagram.

But practice it with caution.

Don’t just copy and paste viral content — add your own twist to it.

Explore your feed, look at viral posts in your niche and follow popular hashtags to find content to recreate. Here’s a look at how we created a viral video.

Better yet, look for viral content on other platforms. For example, TikTok is a great place to find inspiration for Instagram Reels.

Since this content has already worked in the past, it’s likely to work for you as well. Just make sure you tweak it to appeal to your specific audience.

9. Partner with an influencer

Going viral on your own can be challenging, especially if you’re new to the platform or have a small following. This is where Instagram influencer marketing can help.

Partnering with popular creators in your niche can bring your content tons of exposure. You can either ask for reposts and mentions, or co-create content with them. The more eyeballs you get on your content, the more chances you have of going viral.

For example, Kapten & Son partners with travel influencers to create viral content promoting their backpacks.

The best influencers usually have an engaged following that trusts them. Having these creators endorse your brand or product can do wonders for your own credibility.

10. Determine the best time to post on Instagram

Your followers are not scrolling Instagram all the time — they work and sleep too. The key is to find out when they’re most active and then hit post for maximum engagement.

Sprout Social’s data shows the average global peak engagement times.

While it’s good to keep these averages in, the best time to post on Instagram for your brand will vary based on the unique characteristics of your audience.

Factors like location, time zone, interests, hobbies, schedules, age and gender all affect social media behavior. Use Instagram analytics to find out your followers’ peak activity hours and use that to schedule posts.

11. Post consistently to grow your followers

In addition to posting at the best times, you should also post consistently to attract more followers and build a strong presence on the platform.

Posting randomly or taking long breaks in between can make new, excited followers slowly forget about your brand. Stay on top of their minds by posting great content regularly.

They’ll soon come to expect entertainment or creativity from your brand, which is always a good thing for your brand image and engagement.

Use Instagram automation to help you stick to a consistent posting schedule. For example, Sprout’s scheduling features enable you to set up a content calendar for Instagram and post at optimal times.

How many likes is viral on Instagram?

Generally, posts with 100,000+ likes or views and 1,000+ comments are considered to be viral. However, the term ‘viral’ is subjective and can mean different things to different brands.

For example, you might consider a post to go viral if it crosses 10,000 views. Or, if you’re a smaller brand targeting a very niche audience, viral can also mean 1,000 views or likes.

The point is — it depends. We recommend benchmarking based on your own analytics and competitor data, and aiming for higher (but realistic) engagement rates as you grow.

Create a data-driven strategy to go viral on Instagram

Going viral on Instagram can be tricky, but not impossible.

The trick is to use data to fuel your creative efforts, post timely and consistently and take advantage of new trends.

Most importantly, stay true to your brand voice and always be authentic. You’ll only drive away customers with repetitive and pretentious content. If you want to stand out from the noise, you need to be unique.

If you’re wondering how to use data and analytics to create amazing content customers love to watch and share, check out our complete guide to Instagram marketing.


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