How Iran’s Instagrammers Schooled Me On Viral Content: #GateOfWords

Phillip Geist’s exhibition in Tehran, accidentally created an online social movement.

Gate of words, an exhibition produced by German artist Phillip Geist, was held in Tehran from October 3–5, representing the 25th anniversary of Germany’s reunification in 1990.

How did I hear about the exhibition? No, it wasn’t the slightly bland press release that TehranTimes and Payvand posted (Let’s start being a bit more creative shall we?).

It was me casually going through my Instagram feed when Ehsan’s photo came up:

Azadi Tower by Ehsan Ravesh

The light installations were mesmerizing and quickly caught my attention. The usage of “Freedom” also created a rather unique connection towards the structure

A bit of background on the Azadi Tower:

A direct translation “Freedom Tower” completed in 1971, was designed in commemoration of the 2,500 anniversary of the Persian Empire. It is still considered an architectural feat, with each white marble stone cut with precision to produce a solid structure that became a monumental piece of pride for all Iranians.

Sketch and Construction of the Freedom tower 1970 — Tehran

“I received the highest number of likes and engagement for this photo; and I post a lot!” Ehsan Ravesh.

Ehsan’s comment made me start questioning on how the content gained fuel. So I went back to the drawing board to find the source for #GateOfWords.

It quickly became clear that the online movement was purely organic without any agency backing, started by users, and turned viral by users.

I started analyzing the name of the exhibition on Instagram through public profiles: #gateofwords.

#gateofwords publicly originated on October 3rd by Hooman Mehdizadeh.
With an average 6.8% engagement on his video posts, his video on the exhibtion blew it out of the water with a whopping 16.8% engagement, being one of his top posts.

The ENTIRE campaign grew organically through social shares, purely through user’s personal interest towards the exhibition.

A simple search on brought up incredible numbers for the campaign: analytics

With only 81 posts, #GateOfWords reached over 110,000 Instagram users!

We as Marketers spend weeks on end designing a campaign we hope to become viral, but the beauty of successful viral content is when it’s grown organically through the unique values of a community.

With over 8 million Instagram users in Iran, one can only wonder what the next viral campaign can be.

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