Characteristics of Successful Viral Content

So, What is Viral Marketing?

Many people, including many senior executives, are still unsure exactly what viral marketing is or how it works.

In a way, it is like the traditional word of mouth concept where a positive message about a product or brand is spread around the community by the decision makers and influencers of the group, but turbo-charged with more scale and speed!

Historically, the only way to get marketing messages out there was to put them on billboards, the sides of buses, in the media or via mail-shots.

The advent of the internet has meant the shrinking of the conceptual distances between people and places, enabling the leveraging of social media to spread the marketing message for us.

Amy Harris, Marketing Manager for Expert Market UK (visit website here) offers you tips for successful viral content.

In order to have any chance of getting a campaign to go viral you need to consider three elements;

  1. The Message
  2. The Messengers
  3. The Environment

The message should be delivered in eye-catching content which features the product or service but where humor predominates.

A good example is the campaign for a well-known tinned salmon product which featured a fisherman fighting a bear for his fish. Thanks to the content going viral, the company managed to reverse their declining market share and grew their brand awareness amongst a new customer base.

As with making money, the first million is always the hardest – and so it is with messaging your viral marketing campaign.

Asking your employees to spread the word through their own personal networks may gain you a few hundred hits, but what about your first 1,000, 10,000 or million?

You could consider employing industry professionals or using the services of A list bloggers or celebrities but, at the end of the day, the message has to be strong enough for social media to work its magic on content alone.

As any industry insider will tell you, there really is neither rhyme nor reason why a certain piece of well-crafted content will disappear without trace while another seemingly inferior offering will go viral.

Timing is everything and ensuring that the content is current, relevant and in tune with the social zeitgeist should ensure that you have the best possible opportunity of getting your message across.

Characteristics for Going Viral

All of the major global brands have had their fair share of successful viral campaigns but also their spectacular failures.

The relationship between effort and reward is certainly not proportional and, although the potential is vast, success can be hard won and random.

Despite there being no definitive set of rules for creating sure-fire successful viral marketing content, there are certain common traits which feature in most of the more widely recognized hits:

Be Controversial!

Make people think and be a little controversial; content that gets people watching and then questioning what they have just seen can generally be relied upon to make an impression.

Two well-known examples feature top sportsmen; soccer ace David Beckham and tennis professional Roger Federer.

Both are doing spectacular tricks with the tools (or balls) of their trade, but is the footage genuine or not? Is it trickery or a true indication of what made these men great at their sports?

Both sets of footage feature ambient background noise with validation given by onlookers and both look as though they were shot in one take. The product placement is inconspicuous, but these campaigns have both gone viral and are still YouTube favorites.

Increase Brand Awareness

Make sure you demonstrate strong branding by giving your content a consistent persona with which the public can identify.

A well-known men’s grooming product featured the same character throughout their campaigns, endorsing brand recognition and maintaining the parallel between all of their videos.

The first campaign generated a staggering 35 million views within the first 7 days with women anxious to see ‘The man your man could smell like!’

Make ‘Em Laugh!

Raise a laugh and you could be well on your way to a viral hit. People are more likely to share videos featuring cute animals or dancing babies when they feel good about what they have seen and want to share the experience with others.

A campaign which shows two babies deep in discussion with each other in their own special language has caused a viral sensation; while the original roller-skating babies which were used to promote a certain French mineral water back in 2009 has since entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s most viewed online video with 65 million hits. Even the new campaign released in 2012 had 29 million views in the first 5 days.

…Or Cry

If laughter doesn’t send the right message for your brand, don’t be afraid to tap into other emotions.

Earlier in 2013, a young cancer sufferer named Zach Sobiech posted his own YouTube video entitled Clouds in which he sang a song he had composed and talked about his struggle with the disease.

Although Zach tragically lost his fight against cancer in May 2013, his video has gone viral and the positive reaction it has stimulated in viewers has had a knock-on effect for the US based Kid’s Cancer Research Fund from people wishing to donate or simply to find out more about the disease.

Those who have been touched by a campaign will be as willing to share their experience with others if it made them cry just as much as if it made them laugh; who can forget the 2007 drumming gorilla playing along to the old Phil Collins hit, In the Air Tonight, who fronted a campaign for a well known brand of milk chocolate?

The expression in those deep, dark soulful eyes as he lost himself in his music was truly uplifting and, if we are honest, brought a lump to the throat!

A Short, Sharp Shock!

Most importantly, keep it short! We watch an astonishing 4 billion YouTube videos globally every day, but 44 per cent of us admit that after just 60 seconds we are losing interest.

Consider the campaign which loveable ‘gangster’ Vinnie Jones headed for the British Heart Foundation where he talked us through hands-only CPR to the tune of the Bee Gees’ Staying Alive.

It may have only lasted 30 seconds, but I bet we all know how to do it if we had to!