Why going viral is a lost cause

Why going viral is a lost cause
Written by Edward Fraser

If someone has promised to send a piece of content viral through general public adoration, they’ve been telling porkies. In fact, I’d advise any client to take two steps back from people who consider themselves viral marketers. You don’t know where they’ve been.

Viral is a term that has become confused. In short, if people continue to simply supplant “very successful” with “viral” it will remain unachievable.

I like to think of virality in its purest sense; the organic spread of an object based on its ability to capture and affect a subject. It’s a powerful thought and one that, if dissected, offers a handy spread of takeaway thoughts for marketers.

Down to buzziness

Colleague and the tree MD, Daniel Andrews, recently let buzzword “synergy” slip in the office. I was close to making him sit in the car.

That said, everyday people often respond better to buzzwords. Especially when they’ve seen the tabloids report, “Kim Kardashian’s foot goes viral with one million views online.” Clients especially want to reproduce that obscene scale of reach - hence why viral has made its way into agency vocabulary.

It is, after all, more convenient than saying “we’re going make this content do loads of really great things for you.”

5 tips for viral-like success

So what can you do to achieve these hyperactive results? These tips should help.

  1. Make it attractive

    Everything from the content to the click must be inviting. And that doesn’t necessarily mean content must be polished and costly. For example, distorted CCTV footage may get a more positive click-rate on social media, as it’s more real to the audience.

    Targeted words, well-crafted thumbnails and a clear CTA all give people a reason to dig deeper.

  2. Be original

    You know when someone says something that you’ve never heard before, but it’s so true? Or the moment you laughed at a large gorilla playing the drums to Phil Collins? It’s originality that ignites the masses. However, originality isn’t to be confused with randomness – that gorilla wasn’t simply plonked on a drum stool. It was carefully placed using consumer insight and a savvy media plan.

  3. Put people first

    You’ve been holiday with a friend. A week later, they’re showing you their photos. Do you:

    1. Look patiently and take in all the moments that you weren’t with them.

    2. Thumb through quickly for any pictures of yourself.

    For most, the answer is B. That’s because people want to see themselves in your content. Whether it’s elements of their personality in a video or their name on the side of a bottle. Make it personal, in a good way.

  4. Laugh, cry, dance...

    ...are just three results of successful content. They’re part of a vast spectrum of things, all driven by emotion. Play those tender emotional strings until they wear thin. Think of your favorite piece of content – you like it because it evoked a sentiment that you’ve now attached to it.

  5. Brand clever

    Good content is driven by interest, not brands. However, it’s brands that often front the bill so it’s important for them to benefit from the glory.

    Rather than ruthlessly hijack the success with logos and assets, brands should cleverly weave their messaging into the idea, sponsor the landing page or discretely place their products. This will maintain interest and benefit brands.

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