Boys’ Life Facebook post about 20-person, 10-room tent goes viral

May 1 update: The post’s reach is now 52.9 million. Whoa!


OK, I know “going viral” is one of the most overused social media phrases out there. But I think you’ll agree that its use is warranted this time.

On Monday, Boys’ Life posted an image of a 20-person, 10-room tent to its Facebook page.

Then something incredible happened.

People started sharing the image with their friends. Then those friends shared it with more friends. And so on until, as of this writing, the number of people reached with the post has surpassed 45.8 million — and growing.

In other words, this little Facebook post has gotten way bigger than our BSA family. It has truly gone viral.

If it gets people to think about Boys’ Life or the BSA — people who otherwise might not have — that’s a 45.8-million-strong win for Scouting.

The story from here is a little “inside baseball,” but read on if you’re interested in learning more.

The start of something big

This all started when Bryan Wursten, Boys’ Life senior digital editor and manager of the magazine’s Facebook page, posted a photo of a 20-person, 10-room tent he had seen online.

Wursten’s caption: “We can’t decide if this tent is awesome or ridiculous.”

He sent readers to the Boys’ Life tent-buying guide to see this massive tent and others of a more reasonable size.

As more and more people started liking, commenting on and sharing the post, its numbers grew.

Growing and growing

Detailed post stats are available to Facebook page managers, and I asked Wursten to share the awesome numbers with me.

A typical Boys’ Life Facebook post gets a few hundred or a few thousand likes. The tent post has, so far, amassed a ridiculous 332,736 likes on the post itself and another 1.25 million likes on shares of the post.

There have been more than 85,000 comments on the Boys’ Life post and another 566,000 comments on shares of the post. (My favorite so far: “Do you need a building permit for that thing?”)

In all, the post has reached — or showed up in the news feed of — more than 45.8 million people. That’s more than the population of Argentina. Wow.

What can we learn from this?

If you help run your unit, district or council social media channels, you know it’s not always easy to explain why some posts do well while others fail.

Predicting when something will “go viral” is almost impossible, but I can think of a few reasons why this Boys’ Life post succeeded:

  • A simple, effective caption. Wursten’s caption invites readers to leave an opinion on whether a 20-person, 10-room tent is “awesome or ridiculous.” Asking for opinions in a friendly way can help boost numbers, especially comments.
  • The right time of year. The weather’s getting better, and people are thinking about camping. Maybe they’re thinking about heading out to a state park with 19 of their closest friends … We’re also nearing music festival season, and many commenters said they’d consider one of these tents for that purpose.
  • Tied to a news story. The post went up two days after the devastating earthquake in Nepal, and several commenters on the Boys’ Life post pointed out that this tent would be perfect for relief efforts there. The BL post didn’t mention the Nepal earthquake, but some people might have shared the post because of it.
  • A self-contained story. You don’t need to read a long blog post (like this one!) to get the whole story of this big tent. The photo and the words within explain everything you need to know. That’s highly shareable.
  • Plain luck. Yes, as frustrating as it may be, there’s always a little bit of luck involved in social media success.

What do you think?

Why do you think this post has done so well? If you run a Scouting-related Facebook page, what lessons can you share?

Please leave your comments below. Oh, and please share this post all you want!

About Bryan Wendell 3282 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.