Viral Content: How Storytelling Got Us Buzzing on LinkedIn

Written by Matt Smith

9 May 2019


Yup – you’ve read the stats correctly, we saw viral success of over 2.6 million impressions and 29,000 likes. Not bad for an organic LinkedIn post on our CEO/Chief Storyteller, Chris Hewitt’s personal account.

That’s right – not a penny was spent in its promotion.

So now he’s technically ‘gone viral’ how do we re-create the magical alchemy? How do we hit the social media/marketing jackpot again and again? Not just for him but for our clients too? Good question!

Why did the post go viral?

If I break down the post itself, it had great potential to be seen widely and engaged with:

  • A compelling story – who is the story about, will you keep reading to the ‘reveal’?
  • A degree of human interest – we’ve nearly all been on board an Easyjet flight and have probably at some point struggled with folding a pushchair.
  • The conflict – a well-known businessman behaving, or not behaving for that matter as you might expect.

Plus, it included an authentic, back-of-the-head picture from the flight. This meant it stood out in the feed.

It also showed potential readers the resolution before they’d had to read it – the final crucial element in any good story.

Repeating the success

To be honest, we could spin this success by claiming going viral was all part of the content marketing strategy. But that wouldn’t be true.

Undoubtedly going viral remains the Holy Grail for social media, comms and marketing teams. Turning around to your boss with the analytics is always satisfying. But what if they reply that they want you to do it again?

People not pages

Had we published the post to the Berkeley Communications channel instead of Chris’, it would have had nowhere near the same impact.

We would have had to pay LinkedIn quite a substantial amount to reach as many eyeballs and there’s no guarantee we’d get the same level of engagement.

However, we’ve made a concerted effort to focus on Chris’ personal LinkedIn presence as part of our content strategy, using regular, useful posts to build his network and grow his authority.

The Easyjet post is a great example of what can happen when you enable advocates and leaders in the organisation rather than just focusing on branded channels.

Go with the algorithms

The alchemy part of going viral isn’t really alchemy at all. It’s algorithms.

Social media posts with high organic engagement become more visible and are seen in more peoples’ feeds. It’s a self-perpetuating circle.

The algorithms change all the time but what is very much a constant is that the quality of the content really matters when it comes to driving that initial organic reach.

Good content tells a great story, and that’s why you need to hook the reader in and keep them with you through to the end of the story.

Storytelling works

If you’re rolling your eyes because you’ve heard that from agencies before, me too.

Lots of agencies stress the importance of storytelling when trying to win pitches and engage with their clients’ target audiences.

Yet as a former BBC News Editor (OK, read cynic if you will), I can tell you that they are absolutely right.

Berkeley Communications has championed it for decades (since Chris started the business thirty years ago) and we’ve even established the CIPD accredited Berkeley Storytelling Academy to teach business leaders how to use the techniques themselves.

I totally agree the phrase itself is over-used and tired, but we can’t let this mask the fact that storytelling works.

Call it a narrative or a brand proposition if you like, but to me it’s about what makes a good story, whether you work for a B2B or B2C brand.