June 6, 2020

Creating Virality on Social Media

Creating Virality on Social Media

At Circles.Life, we don’t just focus on customer happiness but we’re also employee-obsessed, especially when it comes to celebrating achievements and talents. While Circles.Life has featured employees such as Jalyn, and how she won Circles.Life’s first ideathon, we have other employees who has done personal projects that resonate strongly with our values in being bold and daring to innovate.

Varick, our software engineer in product engineering works actively with the team in creating new products for Circles.Life. Beyond that, he has a passion in creating new products, and has an interest in creating filters on social media. This is how he created the viral “Who Is More?” Instagram filter.

This article was originally published by Varick and has been edited by Circles.Life.

How I created the “Who is more?” viral Instagram filter

If you’ve seen an Instagram story involving a question and people tilting their heads, you were probably looking at the “Who Is More” Instagram filter. My name is Varick, and I work as a software engineer in product engineering. I’ve always been interested in creating new products and worked on a few personal projects in my spare time. Here, I will share the creative process and decision making behind this filter.

Note: this is not a technical guide on how to create the filter

Coming up with the idea

In anticipation of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to create a filter that allows couples to play together. I had only created single-player filters so far and I wanted to challenge myself to build something for multiple players.

The initial idea was to show a question (e.g. “Who has higher IQ?”) and have the filter randomly select one person to answer.

However, I wanted to enhance the interactive experience between the users, so I thought, “Wouldn’t it be more interesting if the players themselves can choose the answer?”

This led to the idea that it is similar to the Shoe game commonly played at wedding ceremonies. In this game, the groom would hold a heel to represent the bride, while the bride holds the groom’s shoe. The couple would then be tested on how well they know each other.

With this idea, I thought about the journey to translate this game into Instagram filter.

Designing the user experience

Once the game was locked down, I had to work on the user experience — the game controls. Fortunately, Spark AR (the tool to create Instagram filters) provides a variety of user interactions to play around with.

Testing out head turn

Since players were expected to sit side by side, it made sense to use a directional interaction — either head turn or head tilt. Thinking through the user journey and experimenting in both ways, it was clear to me that the head tilt was the better option.

Turning your head makes it difficult to maintain eye contact with the screen, which would negatively affect gameplay. Also, continuously turning your head proved to be physically strenuous and disorientating.

(Try turning your head right-left-right vs tilting your head right-left-right and you’ll get the idea)

Another component of the game experience is the user interface. Due to the nature of the Instagram stories platform, users are limited to a small screen size and have a little time to take in new information. This means that interactive filters should be intuitive and frictionless.

For the “Who Is More” filter, I applied these concepts:

  • Colour as feedback
    In my opinion, colour is the fastest method to give feedback to users, better than icons or text. Changing background colors to green/red also saves screen space, as compared to displaying a “Correct” or “Wrong” text.

Neutral, wrong & correct states

  • Minimalistic visual design
    Every visual element in the filter (text, boxes, icons or circles) exists only to convey useful information to the users. I made the design choice to minimize unnecessary elements so that users do not have to waste time figuring out what to do during the game. For example, the purpose of the countdown timer is to tell users when to tilt their heads. It appears only when it is needed, and disappears once it has served its purpose.
  • Delightful animation
    The animation is an excellent way of adding delight to a filter. Additionally, it’s a useful method to smoothly transition between different states of a filter. However, animation should always be used with caution as we don’t want to ‘over-animate’ and distract users. For the “Who is more” filter, I used a simple rotation animation to indicate the start and end of the game.

Maximizing replay value

Personally, I find that the best filters are those that can be used over and over again. It’s a lot more fun when the users can keep replaying the filter with a different experience each time.

Having a high replay value also helps to boost the virality of the filter. More times played per user means more stories posted and higher chances of their followers discovering the filter

Now, you can probably guess that the #1 method to increase the replay value is to have a large variety of questions. But what other ways can we encourage the user to replay the game? This is where we discuss the format of the game.

We already know what we have is a question-and-answer type of game. If you watch a lot of game shows (I was a huge fan of the Korean variety show Running Man), you may know a couple of ways to structure a game like this.

At first, I structured the game as such: Players can continuously answer new questions but the game ends when a question is answered wrongly. I thought this could boost replay-ability by encouraging users to beat their ‘high-score’ (similar to Flappy Bird). But I realized this is not a strong reason especially when considering the platform and the users.

Instagram users are less likely to be motivated by achieving high scores. The majority of them just want something fun to play or something funny to post.

This format can cause the game to end too early and be discouraging for players who continuously get their first question wrong. Also, users who get a lot of questions correct will quickly learn all the questions and get bored.

I then switched to another format that uses a fixed number of questions. Players receive a fixed number of questions per session and try to answer them as many as they can correctly. This effectively shifts the motivation for replay from getting a new high score to finding out more questions.

This option provides some advantages too:

  1. Users get to enjoy the game even if they get all questions wrong
  2. Consistent game duration — not too short that they cannot enjoy the game, or too long that it gets draggy or strains the players’ necks
  3. Players receive a rating at the end which subconsciously encourages them to replay the game until they get full marks (similar to the 3-star rating system in Candy Crush and Overcook)


After much testing, tweaking and updating, the results of this process is the “Who Is More” filter that you see on your Instagram stories feed. It has 3 different modes: Friends, Couples and Burning Bridges editions and a total of 173 questions.

The filter was launched on 13 Feb and has over 1 billion impressions so far.

It was amazing to see the filter go viral and spread from Singapore to all over the world. Influencers, YouTubers and even Hollywood celebrities have played it!

Left to right: Mongabong, Shane Dawson, Sarah Hyland (from Modern Family), Victoria Justice, Laurdiy

The filter was also featured in a few articles:

Hope you enjoyed this article as much as I enjoyed writing it.

If you’re interested in creating filters, it’s actually really simple thanks to the free Spark AR program provided by Facebook. (Click here to get started). It’s up to your creativity to create all sorts of cool, interesting and beautiful filters.

Let me know down below if you have any questions. In the meantime, I will continue to create and publish new filters. Free feel to check out my other filters on my Instagram profile @vamonke ;)

Huge thanks to my sis for helping when I needed another person to playtest!