With close to 1.44 billion people accessing Facebook every month, more and more businesses are now looking at viral marketing as a serious strategy to quickly reach out to a huge chunk of new users. Viral marketing is not a hit-or-miss strategy any more. According to Professor Jonah Berger, a viral scientist and marketing researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, there are five essential traits for content to viral. These must be: surprising, interesting, intense, positive, and actionable.
The potential gain from viral marketing is so immense that this has spun off a whole new category of marketing called growth hacking. Growth hackers typically identify elements in your product framework or marketing that can be tweaked to elicit higher virality and reach among consumers. While that is not the same as creating a viral marketing campaign, the objective in both cases is the same - build something to get your brand or website shared intensely among users in order to build traffic exponentially. So how do you go about it? While there is no perfect recipe to get your viral campaign successful 100% of the time, here is a short guide to check out.
Step 0: Set up your infrastructure
Success with viral campaigns does not happen every day. But when it happens, it is criminal to not make the most of it. Always ensure that your website, particularly its underlying infrastructure, can withstand the load of thousands of simultaneous hits. Essentially, this involves ensuring high availability and caching static data in CDNs across the globe, so that content is always available to visitors. Websites going down when you finally taste success is the worst thing that could happen.
Step 1: Identify opportunities
It would be a mistake to blindly create content without first getting a pulse on what's shareable and potentially viral. Use a tool like BuzzSumo to find the kind of content that gets shared a lot among your audience. Also, assuming you already follow a lot of people in your industry on networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other channels, you should use previous viral successes as a gauge for what works.
Step 2: Track down themes
Now that you know what kind of content works with your audience, you can start with your brainstorming, particularly with the type of content and the theme. Does text content work better than videos? Do people in your industry prefer serious and fascinating stuff over light-hearted viral videos? You should now be able to decide what you are going to invest in - a video, a blog post, a meme or something else.
Step 3: Identify recent trends or news pieces
In some cases, viral pieces can start from controversial or trending news pieces. For instance, if you are in the apparel industry and the English royalty have just announced the birth of a new princess, then you may want to launch a princess line to commemorate this. If you are in the field of medicine and the ice bucket challenge is on, you can take the opportunity to discuss ALS at length. Just building a list of recent and upcoming buzz-worthy news items should set you off with different ideas for your campaign.
Step 4: Invest in high quality output
True enough, even amateurish content gets shared virally as long as there is the right emotional appeal. But these are often unsustainable, and may not be the most appropriate way to market a brand or business idea, if that is your intent. Invest in a high quality product, whether it is a video, image or blog content. It needs to be high-quality and peppered with lots of emotional trigger.
Step 5: Have a proper viral seeding strategy
No matter how amazing your content is, you will need a proper viral seeding strategy. This can include spending a few dollars on Facebook to help with the initial few targeted shares, or getting your employees to start sharing within their own networks. It is always better to have multiple seeding strategies in place. This is especially true for platforms like Reddit, where you have a limited time post-submission to trigger virality.
Step 6: Measure and Repeat
Although there is a lot of science behind a successful viral campaign, you cannot be assured of success all the time. So with every campaign you launch, it is necessary that you measure the performance, understand things that worked and those that didn't and use the lessons learned in deploying the next campaign.
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