“nudge, poke, and pray for it … [but] the truth is that viral is largely a happy accident.” – Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman
The term viral and the culture surrounding this phenomenon has taken over how we communicate not only within our peer circles but especially within the work place. If you work in marketing, I would bet a large amount of money you’ve heard a client or colleague say “lets make this go viral” more than once. But just so we’re all on the same page here – what the heck does VIRAL really mean, and are we expected to define, grasp and understand something so unpredictable?
If a client says, “we want to create a viral video,” my first question is usually, “what do you mean by viral?” If it turns out that their goal is to create compelling content that people in their targeted audience will WANT to send to their friends and family, then we’re good. But if they mean, “we want to create a video that will become immensely popular and spread like wildfire and everyone around the world will see it and buy our products because of it” we’ve got some explaining to do.
Posting a meme on your page is not “going viral,” it’s just acknowledging the culture. Making a video you find funny and amusing is not “going viral”, it strengthening brand awareness. Creating content that spreads because it strikes a certain emotion or it makes people feel something — nostalgia, amusement, compassion, a sense of power or belonging, even fear – has the potential to GO VIRAL but it’s never a guarantee. Once a viral marketing campaign is out there, the brand is no longer in control of the messaging. Nobody can really put their finger on what causes something to “go viral”. What you can do is improve your chances of achieving a viral outcome. It’s a good idea to get this straight before getting too excited on a viral concept – you cannot make your content go viral.
The best advice I can give to clients is don’t try to control the viral nature of your content; instead, concentrate on making it compelling, on-trend, interesting, funny, moving, and definitely something able to resonate with a lot viewers in your target. People want to share things that show a sampling of who they are, what they stand for, and the message they want to relay to their peers. At the end of the day, we all need to accept that it isn’t our choice, even if we believe so strongly in a piece of content or type of campaign. It is ultimately our audience who decide “viral worthiness”.
Everyone wants more traffic, more views, more subscribers, more followers, more likes, more comments. Clients, buyers, investors, are all clued in to how many people were reached with a specific post, campaign or artwork. If you can get something to go viral on the internet, you can get a lot of exposure in a small amount of time without much effort, but this takes a lot of planning, research and more than anything, luck.
So, spend your ad dollars discovering your audience, who they are and what triggers them to engage with your content. These kinds of budgets are worth the money to be able to achieve shareable greatness online.
And don’t forget to like, share, comment, and tag on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Let’s go viral 😉