why-does-content-go-viralWe have all seen content that has gone viral. Sometimes it is a cute or embarrassing picture, sometimes a gorilla playing the drums or a guy on the beach talking about aftershave that the senior male members of the family tended to wear!

As marketers, we want a piece of this action because, not only do we get to entertain the masses, but we can get our brands in front of potential customers, clients and buyers on their own terms through peer recommendation.

What is ‘going viral’?

Essentially, it is creating a piece of marketing media – usually a video, image or other easily shareble work – that is then shared across the internet, traditionally via social media or email.

However, not all viral content has started from humble beginnings. The Cadbury’s gorilla was a TV advert but the value of the ad was enhanced considerably from the viral success it achieved afterwards and continues to do so.

How does viral marketing work?

The principles of the potential of viral marketing were documented as early as 1980 although this is in the pre-internet era. The principle was called Metcalfe’s Law and this law states that:

“The value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system (n2).”

For the mathematically gifted this is derived from n(n-1)/2 n=number of connector , in essence 2 telephones can only make 1 connection, 5 can make 10 and 12 can make 66. So 100,000 telephones would result in 4,999,950,000 connections, that is 5 billion connections. Now apply that to the potential of the internet and you get some pretty staggering figures!

To get in front of this many people would traditionally take a budget not too dissimilar to that of a national debt and require planning along the same lines as D-day!

Rules for viral content?

Firstly, we need to accept that not everything can be shared – it often takes multiple attempts before it will work.

Secondly, the content needs to be worthy of sharing. Remember, whoever is sharing it wants to be associated with the content, so think about how you are portraying your brand, the users that share it and the social perceptions that will come with it.

Thirdly, it needs to be easy to share across all platforms and, as such, take advantage of likes, tweets and views etc.

What can be shared?

  • Articles, web pages and blog posts (like this one, hint hint)
  • Interactive content games, quizzes, widgets and polls
  • Video from YouTube, vzaar or any number of video hosting platforms
  • Audio from podcasts, sound cloud, i-tunes or spotify
  • Images such as photos, memes or infographics
  • Content that is funny – we have all seen and shared for this reason
  • Content that is amazing or incredible – wing suits any one?
  • Content that connects emotionally – whether positive or negative, it will get shared
  • Content that ties in with what we believe and how we want to be perceived
  • Thought provoking content – did it make you take a second to reflect or change your view point?
  • Content that gets ignored by the big players in media, an injustice or uncool for traditional news
  • Over the top content will elicit a response
  • Content that pushes the boundaries (but maintains professionalism)

Final considerations

Don’t forget, in this day and age, we have multiple platforms and plethora of hardware to manage the way we view content. Test it for mobile and tablet (IOS and android) and double check your browsers (IE, chrome, Safari and so on). Test it on both a Windows machine and a Mac where possible. Don’t trip yourself up by not considering the potential of where your content will go.

Whilst I believe there is no secret recipe here to guarantee success, I do believe that by combining integrity, visual or audio impact and easy functionality with interesting content, you will be successful and achieve a level of viral success.

Ultimately, just have fun doing it and the chances are your audience will too!