It is every entrepreneur and marketers dream to make something go viral. If you’re not a celebrity, genuine influencer, sports icon or global CEO, chances are that you’ve not gone viral intentionally – we are purposefully ignoring the funny viral videos of you falling into a pond.

As much as we personally dislike the term ‘viral’, it is a great way to build your brand and reach millions of people, so we understand its importance. We spoke to marketers and did some research to try to understand how to create something that goes viral.

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First let’s understand what it means

Though unfortunate, the term viral comes from the word “virus,” which is a a small infectious agent that can infect all types of organisms.

In the age of the internet, this infection is our somewhat unbridled need to share and spread the content with everyone we know. This is an emotional reaction and understandable as emotions do drive the average person to act based on those emotions.

How does viral marketing affect your brand

Brands look for virality for the benefit of instant awareness. Viral marketing can help launch a new product by getting your brand in front of a large potential market quickly. A YouTube or Facebook video costs a fraction of a more traditional TV or cinema advertisement, but if people start to share it, there is a huge uplift in brand awareness. Take for example, the recent Shopee video with their new spokesperson Cristiano Ronaldo. Costs aside, the viral impact of this cringe-worthy video, was a viral hit with thousands of people sharing the video all across the region.

Launched just in time for 9.9 or the September mega sale, this led to over 113 million deals done on that site for the one-day sale.

So now we’ve established its need, how do we achieve it. Here is a simplified methodology to consider:

Stay on trend

In order for content to become viral, the first step is often to stay current and on trend with what is relevant in today’s society. Being able to create great content requires deep knowledge of what your target audience cares about – this could be world events, the environment to the latest Kpop news or crazy challenge that’s sweeping the internet. Scan relevant online communities to see what people are talking about and use that upward momentum.

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Trigger some form of emotion

The Shopee ad with Ronaldo worked for a number of reasons, but the main one was that it was so cringe-worthy, it drove people to action.

two women operating smartphone

This is not the best association for your brand, so it might be better to focus on creating content that prompts positive emotions like admiration, curiousity, joy and happiness. However, it is apparent that striking a sense of fear can become a powerful powerful motivator and shouldn’t be ignored. 

Make it easy to digest

We live in the world measured by milliseconds, if not nano-seconds, so your content needs to standout and grab attention, as well as maintain it.

If you look at how videos capture attention, it can be as simple as using a compelling thumbnail to incorporating large subtitles. A good example is to look at Ladbible videos on Facebook, as they incorporate some subtle and some not-so subtle ways to grab your attention.

It’s also important to create content that is based on the platform. For instance, Facebook prioritizes long videos, while Instagram prefers shorter clips.

Do not blatantly advertise

Viral content needs to hold real value to the audience without looking like you’re advertising a product. Sharing something that adds genuine value to the viewer is more likely to resonate with the audience and initiate a like, comment or share.

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