Creating Viral Content

It’s the dream of many a marketer to create a piece of content that will be seen by the world. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that something you create will ever go viral and, for the most part, most content that has gone viral has been online for a while. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible. With a lot of work and preparation, you can improve the chances.

So while there isn’t a magic formula for success, there are measures one can take to increase the chances of going viral. The first is the content itself. It must be engaging and resonate with your viewing public. A simplified version of how content goes viral, Kevin Alloca gives three reasons: Tastemakers, participation and unexpectedness. Check out his talk on TED.

So how do you separate your content from others? Be more funny, insightful, provocative or surprising?  How do you connect to what you provide? Most of us love to view some of the fun content that is shared via Facebook and Twitter, but does this fit with your brand? Maybe more emotional and insightful content could work better?

The second is finding the right platform. Who are your target audience? Some people will have considerably more influence than others, so knowing where to share your content is really important. The more people you make aware of it, the greater your chances are that it will be picked up by others. To make something popular, you need to dedicate the time to it. Expect to promote it over the course of days or weeks before you start seeing results. If you see instant results, keep your foot on the pedal, keep promoting and creating that snowball effect.

The biggest part of the equation is actually getting your content out there and making sure people see it. Here are some of the ways you can help kick the content off.

Video Distribution
YouTube is the biggest player when it comes to video content, but there are many other video sharing sites out there where your content might appear. Thanks to software like HeySpread you can upload your content to multiple sites at the same time.

You might want to consider giving your content an advertising push when you first launch. The thinking here is that you need to get enough people to see it before they share it. Check out this SimplyZesty post on how a single piece of viral content made €10,000 in 20 days. The key fact being here that it had advertising budget behind it initially.

Create Content With An Audience In Mind
When you create content, do so with a very specific audience in mind. Before you shoot a video, ask yourself “Who is most likely to cover this and how big is their audience?” The evolution of music video below has received over 125,000 views, but not because people discovered it by accident on YouTube, but because it was seeded to twenty of the world’s biggest blogs that cover music and social media. The content fitted well with their audience so it was easy for them to cover.

Use Photos On Facebook
The quickest way for content to spread is arguably through Facebook. All sorts of content spreads here, but images work better than anything else. Post photos that are relevant to your audience or create images that people want to share. Photos and images appear within the stream and are easy to share, thus making them massively appealing.

Spend Ages On The Title
Most people click on links, articles or other content because of the title. People will retweet even without opening a link based purely on the title. Think as hard on this as you do the content. Play around with different titles and find out what works best for you.

If you’re one of the lucky few that has created content that has gone viral, then the next thing you may want to know is how to monetise your success. The problem here is that while you can generate revenue from content, it may only be for the short-term. Unless your content is immensely popular, this figure will be rather small. The most popular location for viral content, YouTube, allows users to monetise their videos through advertising so to generate profit for Google and give a small commission to those who created the video.

You only need to look at Charlie bit my finger to realise that even immensely popular videos can take a while to generate profits. The family monetised the video after it reached 40 million. Some 430 million views later, the video has earned $500,000 (; so it’s best not to rely on a video going viral to guarantee your future well-being. The video Keyboard Cat is another example, to date it has received 26 million views since it was posted. It’s creator, Charlie Schmidt, made roughly $20,000 in 2009, but a portion of this came from merchandising like t-shirts, phone apps, licensing agreements and toys. Both videos have generated numerous parodies, which only helped enhance the reputation of the original videos.

In effect, seeing your content go viral can be worth the equivalent of a sizable advertising budget and can earn you a similar amount, but unless you’re able to create similar content on a regular basis, then you probably shouldn’t rely on it too much.

Roller Babies
Company: Evian
Views: 58,479,480

Evian made a video with some babies doing amazing things on roller skates. There are a few subtle details that give away the CGI and digital manipulation on this ad, but this is a fun ad with cute kids doing funny things. No idea what this really has to do with mineral water, but the “live young” message is clear.

The Force
Company: Volkswagen
Views: 54,184,541

Follow the world’s most adorable Darth as he goes about his house trying to master The Force. It’s a fun ad, with a clear narrative and a good dramatic build that relies on a very basic knowledge of Star Wars, that clearly made an impact on YouTube users.

The T-Mobile Dance
Company: T-Mobile
Views: 35,442,780

This is probably the most popular flash mob of all-time, and it clearly has legs, having inspired a number of follow-up ads and copy cats. Not only is it an impressive feat of choreography, but what really puts the message of this ad on-brand are the shots of unaware commuters using their phones. Clever stuff, made to be shared and seen.

Team Hot Wheels – The Yellow Driver’s World Record Jump

Company: Hot Wheels
Views: 12,428,998

Hot Wheels blended nostalgia with spectacle in this ad in which a stunt driver breaks the world record for distance jump in a four-wheeled vehicle on a Hot Wheels-style track. The Hot Wheels logo adorns the ad, but it mostly relies on the death-defying jump being made and the iconography of that bright orange track to get is message across.


Articles & Guides

– Time Magazine asks whether making money from viral videos is possible.
– Digital Buzz Blog detailing how and why content goes viral.
– KissMetrics discusses how you can make content go viral and why emotion plays a huge part.
– The best way to go viral is to engage millions who share in small networks.
– How does Gawker create viral content? Nieman Journalism Lab takes a look at what articles it produces.
– Forbes takes look at how YouTube videos go viral and find that strategy is important.


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