6 lessons from NBN Checker – Viral, social, mental.

What a started as a Hack Day project for two team members has snowballed into a viral social campaign which has already pulled in over 150,000 unique visitors from all around Australia.


As I write this we are currently in our 4th crazy day of the NBN Checker.

NBN Checker was born out of our frustrations as an internet company trying to get access to high-speed broadband. Since we were advised that the NBN was available in our street in July 2013 we have been pushing hard to get connected without any success.

There have been constant set-backs and miscommunications between NBNCo, ISPs, contractors and others. Our business (like most businesses) is in a shared building. There just doesn’t seem to be solutions to get these shared buildings or Multiple Dwelling Units (MDUs) as they are called connected to the NBN. Which does beg the question “Why did they bother running fibre through the centre of Hobart if they can’t connect the MDUs that line the streets?”

Timeline of a viral success

The NBN Checker was launched in the middle of the afternoon on Friday 28th February around 5pm we posted it to Facebook and Twitter under the Ionata accounts and a few team members posted it out under their own accounts.

We had no mailing list or other contacts list to seed the campaign.

During Friday evening we liked and favourited Facebook and Twitter posts where we could see people sharing it but didn’t think much more about it.

  • At the end of Friday evening the site had received 97 visits with 2/3 of these coming from Facebook.
  • On Saturday things started to build with over 1,100 visits around 90% of these coming from Facebook.
  • Sunday grew again with over 6,600 visits. Social visits still making up the vast majority of visits but referrals from other websites starting to appear.

Monday wasn’t terribly productive at the Ionata office. We spent most of the day watching Google Analytics and marvelling at the traffic as the site blew through 150, then 200 then 300 active users at any one time.

NBN Checker hit the homepage of Reddit Australia and received coverage fromGizmodo and Tech.AU.


At the end of the day the site had received just under 40,000 unique visitors in a day. Only 3 days after launching.

Tuesday has continued this amazing run and looks likely to receive a similar amount of traffic.

What did we learn (could we do it again)

So what did we learn from this viral success? What was it that made this website so instantly shareable and could we bottle it?

Lesson 1 – Topical

NBN is a big topic at the moment and the people that care about it most are online. People are concerned about what changes to the NBN roll out plan mean for them.

Lesson 2 – Truthful

We aren’t alone in suffering through our quest to get NBN. Many comments on Twitter, Reddit and other forums mentioned how the funny/depressing steps of trying to get access to the NBN reflected their own experience.

Lesson 3 – We’re not selling anything

Sure, we’ve claimed every bit of PR, social commentary and general thumbs up that’s come our way. But we never intended to explicitly sell the Ionata brand. Increased brand awareness is a welcome by-product of the campaign, but our brand is not the vehicle for it. Remember, nobody cares about your business until you make your business relevant to them.

Lesson 4 – Mobile friendly

During work hours people accessed the site from desktop computers but after hours the balance shifted towards mobile. The NBN Checker is a responsive design that works seamlessly on desktop, tablet and mobile which allowed people to share and consume the site no matter which device they were on.


Lesson 5 – Fast/Light

NBN Checker is quick to load even over wireless or 3G.

Lesson 6 – Shareable

NBN Checker is dark humour poking at the pain of getting close to high-speed broadband only to have it snatched away (and bungled through an awful rollout process). People loved being part of the joke, many people presented the site as a ‘new improved’ way to check the NBN availability in your area, wanting their followers to arrive at the site unaware of the frustrating denial awaiting them.

Viral social campaigns aren’t always going to be funny, it isn’t appropriate for all topics, but it certainly gave this campaign share-ability.

Bonus lesson – People are still on Facebook

More than any other channel, NBN Checker took off through Facebook. People shared it with their friends, brands shared it with their followers. The click-throughs from Facebook to the site massively outweighed all other sources even as the site was picked up by tech websites like Gizmodo. Even when the site hit the homepage of Reddit Australia, Facebook was still sending 10 visitors to every one Reddit visitor.

Don’t believe anything you read about the death of Facebook. It’s where people are and campaigns can run wild.