8 Tips And Secrets Of Viral Learning

8 Tips And Secrets Of Viral Learning
Summary: If a ninja cat or a sneezing panda can go viral, what's stopping your training from doing the same? Find out what your learning campaign needs to become an internet sensation!

Secrets Of Viral Learning: How To Create It And Spread A Learning Culture In Your Organization

In 2012, Korean pop star PSY broke records [1] when 'Gangnam Style' became the first YouTube video to reach one billion views. Two years later, the Ice Bucket Challenge filled our news feeds, generating a 10 billion YouTube views, and raising more than $220 million [2] for ALS awareness.

You might think it’s an accident that some campaigns become viral sensations, while others barely make a ripple. There is a certain amount of luck involved, but there are things you can do to make sure your training reaches a tipping point. In his eponymous book [3], Malcom Gladwell outlines 'the tipping point' as that magical moment when the ideas and messages of a group of influencers, come together and spread like a virus from one person to the next.

Now, close your eyes and imagine what your training program might look like with that level of engagement. Exciting, isn’t it!? The trick to creating viral learning content is to rip up the rule book, ditch the traditional training method, and take a learning campaign approach. Here are a few considerations to help create viral training, and spread a learning culture in your organization.

How To Create Viral Learning: 8 Tips For eLearning Professionals

1. Consider Your Values And Organizational Culture

In any learning intervention, viral or otherwise, you should make sure that it’s perfectly aligned with the values and culture of your organization. These are the principles which made your learners choose to be a part of the organization in the first place. If you’re looking for a common thread that will universally resonate with your learners, starting from the core vision is an easy win. Also, by incorporating the company narrative into all training content, you are simultaneously teaching your learners what it means to be a member of that team. Continually reinforcing these core messages gradually builds a foundation that will impact every aspect of the learning campaign.

2. Assemble A Strong Core Team

As a Learning and Development (L&D) professional, you’ll already know about the phenomenal challenges of building engaging and effective training programs. To meet these hurdles head-on, you need the support of a team solidly committed to creating a vibrant learning environment. In a corporate setting, there’s no reason to restrict that team to L&D. Reach out to the marketing team, and ask them to allocate some resource for training. They’ll have a solid understanding of the vision and values behind the organization, and they’ll be able to help build a consistent message throughout the entire campaign.

3. Identify A Group Of Influencers

Aside from producing the campaign, you’ll need a team of advocates to spread the message to all learners. Malcolm Gladwell specifies 3 types on influencers that are central to driving any innovation or change in behavior:

  • Connectors.
    These are the social butterflies of your organization. They know a lot of people and they’re skilled net-workers.
  • Mavens.
    These are the people-in-the-know, who can direct learners to relevant and accurate information.
  • Salesmen.
    These are the persuaders in your team, and they have the power to influence other learners, and communicate the value of the training.

How you identify your influencers will depend on the nature of your business, but it’s essential to get them on board, before launching your campaign.

4. Know The Learners’ Needs

If your learners don’t find your content relevant or useful, they’re unlikely to share it. Your learners’ needs should guide your content strategy. They will be interested in anything that can help them do their job more effectively, and develop in their careers. You will also need to address your business needs, but a word of warning: when it comes to viral learning campaigns, your first priority is to serve the individual. The beauty of campaign-based learning is that it appeals to the modern learner’s need for autonomy. This sense of learner-led development suffers when they feel they’re obliged to do something. So, you need to make your learners believe that a change in behavior was their idea.

5. Focus On Behavior Change

While we’re on the subject, you should keep the words 'behavior change' on a post-it note attached to your monitor at all times! The reason traditional training methods are so hit-and-miss, is that they are designed for imparting information and knowledge only. A single learning event can’t change behavior. Research shows that it takes the average person around 66 days to form a new habit. With a sustained microlearning campaign, your learners can gradually adopt new behaviors through repetition. You can use this to your advantage - once your learners are in the habit of accessing and sharing bite-size content, there’s a better chance of the content going viral.

6. Start With Discussion Groups

No successful marketer will try to engage their entire audience at the same time. They know that their audience is composed of different segments, with different interests and needs. Your learners are no different, and you should take a divide-and-conquer approach to increase your chances of a viral sensation. Create discussion groups for each of the big topics in your business. As members of an exclusive club of like-minded individuals, your learners will feel more confident in sharing some training collateral. Engaging each group individually in this way will help embed knowledge-sharing behaviors, and develop a learning culture.

7. Use Your Enterprise Social Network

Social media can take most of the credit for viral content over the last few years. Social functionality has also taken over the world of learning technologies, and most organisations will employ an internal social network of some kind. These can be stand-alone platforms, though it’s becoming more common to find social news-feeds as part of the standard LMS feature set. Make sure you use your enterprise social network to the best advantage, and turn it into a breeding ground for viral learning content.

8. Eliminate Dead Ends

In a learning campaign, the aim is to ignite a passion for knowledge in your learners. If you can manage this, you need to make sure that there’s enough fuel on your learning platform to keep that fire burning. Viral learning is a great thing to aim for, but it isn’t an end in itself. You should think of viral content as a springboard, guiding your learners to the rest of their learning journey. Ensure your training library is easy to find, easy to navigate, and meets the same high standards of engagement.

Final Words

Creating a single piece of viral learning isn’t the be-all and end-all of a successful learning campaign. If your dreams of a viral learning sensation never come true, it’s not the end of the world. The important thing is that you have committed to an ambitious engagement goal. This shoot-for-the-stars attitude will ensure that dull training becomes a thing of the past.


  1. Gangnam Style hits one billion views on YouTube
  2. Your $220 million to the ALS ice bucket challenge made a difference, study results show
  3. The Tipping Point
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