The world is full of examples of viral marketing, from the latest pop star’s sensational video to funny kitten and kid videos on YouTube. However, there are certain brands that have achieved this level of super-stardom with their targeted advertising in a way that marketers around the world would love to emulate. What is that amazing “special sauce” that provides a boost to some pieces of content and not to others? Is there some hidden message within the marketing that people simply can’t stop sharing? While it’s nearly impossible to predict what will truly hit a nerve with people and cause them to want to share it with their friends, family members and the world, there are some important threads that tend to take on a life of their own after they’re released into the online world.
Define “Going Viral”
In the world of internet marketing, “going viral” is much better than having a cold rip through your classroom or office, and simply refers to the fact that a large number of people have reacted to a particular piece of content — and decided to share it with others. The “infection” grows quickly when users with a large social media following begin to take action, and grows even faster as influencers begin to enter the conversation by adding their own spin on the content. Viral content can be literally anything: a quote, a tweet, an idea, a person’s image, an animal, a video, a photo or an animation. Just as there’s no set type of content or subject that promotes virality, there’s also no set number of shares that means something has gone viral. For some brands, a viral video would be one that garners thousands of views instead of the low double-digits that other videos have gained, while larger brands might require millions of views before something truly stands out above the rest as successful online viral marketing.
Spreading the Message
Creating a cohesive and consistent message across a variety of mediums is one of the best ways to amplify the viral aspect of your content. For instance, if you create one amusing meme that gets thousands of likes on Instagram, the same piece of content may fall completely flat on Twitter or Facebook. If you’re reaching across a variety of different platforms in an attempt to drive engagement, it’s important to match the content to the distribution method. Here, you’re looking for a theme that can reach audiences across the various social media platforms, and resonate well whether it’s presented in visual form on Instagram, as part of a quick video for Facebook, SnapChat or Vine as well as a longer and more in-depth video on YouTube and Vimeo. This ability to share the concept regardless of an audience’s preferred medium offers that many more opportunities to catch someone’s eye.
Types of Viral Content
Spreading your message is something that marketers do on a daily basis. However, it’s unlikely that a single marketer is able to produce hit after hit of viral content — that’s simply not how people work. Determining what will be engaging to users at a particular time in their day and their life is mysterious to say the least, and it’s often difficult to pick apart what worked even after the fact. There are simply too many variables in play to determine an exact formula for creating viral content on an ongoing basis. That said, there are definitely some steps you can take that will provide your content with the best possible chance to be noticed by a broader audience. Perhaps the most important rule to remember is that timing is everything. If you attempt to launch a large marketing campaign on the same day that a massive weather system is supposed to impact a large portion of the country or there’s another controversial topic in the news, there’s a very good chance that your message will be lost in the swirl of conversation. Viral marketing is the ultimate recommendation engine to spread your message.
Managing Viral Growth
Creating a viral loop is one way to help drive additional viral reach, and involves pulling together tactics that will encourage others to share the content. Once a piece of content has begun to engage a broader audience, it’s important to do everything possible to continue fanning the flames. There are a variety of tactics that will help drive online engagement, such as boosting social media posts with paid advertising, encouraging influencers to post about the topic and introducing the idea to followers who are already engaged with your brand. Remove all possible barriers to entry for individuals by optimizing landing pages and ensuring that products and services are easy to find and share. Provide tools that encourage sharing such as social media buttons on all pieces of content and a way to provide credit back to the party who shared the idea. This is particularly important as one of the key reasons that others share an idea is to appear in a leadership role to their peers.
While technology has changed some of the tools that are used for spreading your message in the recent past, the concept of ideas going viral hasn’t evolved significantly in the last quarter century. Fortunately, there are social media marketing experts that will work closely with you to ensure that your ideas hits all the high points involved in helping drive social engagement with your audience — and beyond. The most important point to remember is that when you create content that is interesting and informative for your audience, they will reward you by spreading the word.