0 to 350,000+ visitors in 6 DAYS – What #Masks4All Teaches us About Virality

April 7, 2020

Rhys Wallace

A tale of viral growth in viral times.
As I write this, we’re in the midst of the global pandemic that is COVID-19. Today, we’ll look into how a movement to encourage people to wear face masks in public gained viral traction, and the concrete framework we can keep in mind when creating content, in order to bake-in ‘shareability’ and viral growth opportunities.
In the last week, the #masks4all hashtag on Twitter has seen daily growth of over 63% in global usage of the keyword.
On Sunday, the 29th of March, the official Masks4All website was launched. Two days later, its leader, Member of the World Economic Forum’s Global AI Council and researcher at the University of San Francisco, Jeremy Howard shared the launch via a Tweet:

The week before, Jeremy wrote an article in the Washington Post which went viral, in which he sounded the alarm about why Americans need to wear homemade masks to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The buzz from this article drove him to briefing US senators, policy experts at Yale, and explaining how to make homemade masks on national television within days.

The website created for the movement is home to a wealth of content, articles and documentation about the movement and the efficacy of homemade masks.

In just 4 days, the website saw over 100,000+ visitors through the sharing efforts of its founders, as well as some large accounts on Twitter. Within a week, this number grew to 350,000+

The website rapidly established itself as the go-to source of information with the virus and its relation to reduction efforts through grassroots movements in mask wearing campaigns.

The movement and the website, maybe unwittingly, checked many of the boxes we can look at when looking to craft viral content, sometimes known as the STEPPS framework, as shown below:

These “STEPPS to virality” are 6 key attributes a piece of content, a trend, or here, a website, can look to target to position itself best for viral growth.

So how exactly do these come into play with #masks4all?

The first of the boxes I can see #masks4all ticking is the one of Social Currency: people can share the hashtag and the website to (it sounds malicious but doesn’t have to be) virtue signal.

It tells their followers “look at this, I’m in the know – I’m informed”.

Next, it ticks Triggers perfectly:

It targets a highly current topic – probably one of the most widespread and current topics of the last few years. Everyone is talking about it – it’s at the heart of the zeitgeist.

It’s affecting you, it’s affecting me.

Next, Emotion:

Little needs to be said for this one. The compelling news of the casualties and effects of the virus each day do their best to drive powerful sentiment to make action happen.

And finally, Practical Value:

The entire point of the website is to share practical information. It shares concrete data, guides, tutorials, exact steps to help, to spread the word. Its practical value is its reason to be:


Virality is typically framed as a profit or vanity attribute.

Who doesn’t want viral content? It makes people talk about us.

And yet, virality, a fitting word for the times, will, in this case, prove to be a powerful tool for public health.

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Rhys Wallace