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#IStayHomeFor Challenge Virality Component Analysis

When Going Viral WORKS!
Max Ringelheim

Over the last five weeks the entire United States, and in particular New York, has been battling against an invisible enemy in the Coronavirus. Unfortunately we've lost thousands of lives along the way. Government officials, along with the incredibly brave healthcare workers on the frontlines, have been trying to fight back against this invisible enemy. As the battle continues, there's also been some really interesting viral campaigns that have launched to help support the fight. 

Recently, we documented how the Coronavirus has essentially been the virus that went viral around the world. As a result of how fast and widespread this virus has become it's now well recognized that the only way to truly defend against Coronavirus is for family, friends, and people to implement social distancing in their lives. This means people are unable to see one another and interact with one another unless they are a minimum 6 feet apart. This implementation of a mandated social distancing policy resulted in a variety of campaigns getting started online to help people acclimate and embrace themselves into this new, never before experienced policy and lifestyle.

The one campaign that seems to have gone most viral over the last couple weeks is the #IStayHomeFor challenge that originated on March 18th with the help of the famous actor Kevin Bacon. On March 18th, Kevin Bacon posted a short 1 minute video to his Instagram explaining clearly what the #IStayHomeFor challenge is and why others should partake. 

The premise behind the challenge is to allow for people around the world to express who they care deeply about in their lives, the people they don't want getting infected with Coronavirus most, by embracing social distancing.  The results that have unfolded from the #IStayHomeFor challenge is certainly a When Going Viral Works moment for a variety of positive reasons. Below are some of the reasons why this campaign has been so successful in going viral and some key metrics that determine this campaign's success.

Reasons for Virality

Emotional Content:  As the #IStayHomeFor campaign began to catch on in virality, the emotional posts that were being published online about their loved ones began pouring in. People were communicating different emotional stories about their loved ones, such as diseases they were suffering from that weakened their immune system. Their weakened immune system put those same loved ones more at risk to pass away from Coronavirus if they caught it. Others were posting on social media photos of their parents and grandparents who were over the age of 60 years old which naturally put them at risk due to the Coronavirus having a more deadly impact on older people.

People around the world were all of a sudden learning new information about others in their network that they never knew before. It created a feeling and sensation that everyone was on the same team and in this fight together. All of this built up emotion created an overflow of strong shareable content that people were continuously engaging in on social media.

March 11th, the WHO declares Coronavirus a pandemic

Timing:   When Kevin Bacon made his #IStayHomeFor post on March 18th it was at a pivotal moment when the shift in seriousness was taking place towards the Coronavirus. March 18th was exactly one week after the World Health Organization labeled the Coronavirus a global pandemic and here in America the general public started to be on high alert about the virus. American citizens were taking notice of the outbreak of Coronavirus in places like Spain and Italy and the major lockdowns those countries were going through. Americans were seeing how social distancing was taking effect in those countries and how this was essentially the only defense countries could have against the Coronavirus.

As they say, timing is oftentimes everything in life, and that is especially true for “When Going Viral Works” moments. Back in 2015 with my former Hoverboard company PhunkeeDuck, our viral timing was impeccable as we ignited the Hoverboard movement. We partnered with Kendall Jenner to inform the world about these incredible devices at a time when no one had a clue what a Hoverboard was.

The timing alignment of the #IStayHomeFor challenge in America was perfect as Americans needed a reason to adopt social distancing, and what better reason than to help save someone's life during a global pandemic. This combination of US citizens needing a reason to adopt the social distancing policy, along with its close proximity in date to when Coronavirus was labeled a global pandemic, I believe contributed to its viral effectiveness. 

Measurements of Success

Past Benchmarks:  When measuring the success of different viral campaigns, usually teams will put in place some goals and benchmarks ahead of the campaign's launch. Certain metrics such as hockey stick growth or adoption of the campaign by people via engagement will be closely monitored.  Although I'm sure Kevin Bacon didn't establish any goals or metrics ahead of his Instagram post, there's definitely a few things worth noting on the measurement and attribution front about it. First would be the effectiveness of his post from an engagement and growth standpoint. In the prior 10 Instagram posts on Kevin Bacon's profile ahead of the #IStayHomeFor post he was averaging approximately 755 comments. His #IStayHomeFor Instagram post received over 2,900 comments! That kind of huge jump in engagement of 286% is a great leading indicator of the potential virality his campaign was going to have.

Andrew Cuomoa announces New York Will participate in the #IStayHomeFor Challenge

Week over Week Growth: People interested in creating viral campaigns also want to look at how much week over week growth takes place with whatever it is they're launching. In the case of the #IStayHomeFor challenge, you've continued to see the campaign grow and sustain itself over the last four weeks since Kevin Bacon's initial post. On April 8th, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo helped fuel the #IStayHomeFor challenge by joining this challenge and essentially nominating all New Yorkers to join in this challenge, when he announced the state’s participation at his daily news conference.

This news conference of Governor Cuomo's has been receiving millions of viewers each day and has contributed to a wave of new #IStayHomeFor posts people have published since. His promotion of the campaign also resulted in various publications and networks covering the Governor's participation in the challenge which is fueling the campaigns week over week growth.

Back in 2015 with PhunkeeDuck, we experienced this same kind of fueling of viral week over week growth. For instance, after Kendall Jenner promoted PhunkeeDuck online, then came Jamie Foxx, and then Wiz Khalifa, and then Business Insider and PLENTY MORE! 

Anecdotal Evidence: When measuring virality, there is also anecdotal evidence that can support the case of how quickly something has gone viral. When thinking about the anecdotal evidence that would substantiate the #IStayHomeFor challenge, the goal to be measuring that against is people actually staying home, not going out, and the eventual flattening of the curve of Coronavirus infections. The hope was that if people stayed home, as a country, the US could flatten the curve of Coronavirus infections, hospitalization, and deaths. Over the last 10 days, evidence is now emerging that the US is flattening the curve of total Coronavirus infections and hospitalizations, which is great news. There's been a major commitment from the general public to abide by social distancing and this has contributed tremendously to our defense against this deadly virus. This anecdotal evidence really shines a light on how successful the #IStayHomeFor challenge has been from Kevin Bacon's initial post almost four weeks ago.


During this surreal and scary time that the entire world is going through, it's great to see these WHEN GOING VIRAL WORKS moments taking place to help save lives. Medical authorities around the world can categorically say that social distancing right now is our best defense against the Coronavirus, and to see a campaign like the #IStayHomeFor challenge help save tens of thousands of lives (if not more) is extremely encouraging, especially at a time when everyone really could use some good news. We hope some of the lessons learned from the #IStayHomeFor challenge and the measurement tactics for gauging the effectiveness of viral campaigns can assist business people around the world in creating upcoming viral campaigns in the future.

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When Going Viral was created by Max Ringelheim after he was responsible for cofounding 2015’s viral Hoverboard fad with his company PhunkeeDuck. When Going Viral is about educating entrepreneurs on the cautions, concerns, and warnings associated with a business going viral. It is also dedicated to analyzing the latest positive and negative viral stories and the reasons they go viral. You can learn more at: and by following @whengoingviral on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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