When most people talk about “viral videos”, they usually mean those video clips that have travelled the internet and been posted on video-sharing sites like YouTube, MySpace, Google Video or Facebook. Some of these videos have had millions of views.
Everyone seeks a video, blog post or news announcement that can “go viral”. Here are the first seven tips in my ABC of Viral Messages.
Advertising and more
Never think of a viral promotion is just advertising – it is much more than this. Traditional marketing puts the product on centre stage. But we don’t care about your product; we care about ourselves and a good story. So, forget about you, your product, your message or your company. Focus fully on generating an out-of-the ordinary story. Sure, you can add you product into the mix, but it must not be the main focus. People share stuff because they like is. We don’t like to be forced, manipulated or pressured into doing this. Rather give us something that will make us say: "I want to share this because if I do I will look good, be kind or break exciting news."
Bored at work
Jonah Peretti, a guy called the “viral marketing hotdog” at the New York Times, says the secret of going viral is to produce something for the BWN – that hard-to-pin-down group known as the “Bored at Work” network. He says the BWN is “bigger than the BBC, CNN or any traditional media network” and is made up of “millions of bored office workers [who] blog, Tweet, Facebook and IM all day”. Often the BWN in effect chooses what is trendy. Create something they will want to pass around. For something to flow through this network it must be straightforward to understand, painless to share and social in essence.
Content is key
Creating a viral campaign starts with choosing the right content – content is key. Your message must have a one-of-its-kind or attention-grabbing idea. Visualise the type of message that you want to put out there. Get inspired. Come up with many options. Be original. Viral messages are usually nine parts entertainment to every one part branding. They integrate the message in a natural, efficient way without feeling forced or heavy-handed.
Create a strong emotion. We want people to feel love or hate, happiness or anger, compassion or disgust. Your message doesn’t have to be sad; it can also encourage devotion and heroism. A good example is the YouTube video
of a little Korean boy singing “I’m Yours”. Even though your product may not have the cuteness factor, it can still have the I-must-tell-a-friend factor. Forget boring and neutral. Move away from pleasing everyone and be biased. Viral marketing is 100% emotional appeal – making people’s blood pump with excitement.
We forward stuff because it is funny, catchy or inspirational. Run your idea by your friends first. Ask them if they think it’s funny. If they do, chances are good that other people will too. Do they feel the idea is inspirational? How do they react on your message? It takes a little nudge for a viral campaign to catch on like wildfire. When you are ready, share it with your friends first. Ask them to comment on your blog post and to pass it on. Remember that YouTube has more than 20 hours of video uploaded every minute, so the struggle for eyeballs is severe.
Browsing the net, we often have the attention span of a goldfish. Therefore: the shorter the better. Give your message a high impact up front to grab attention quickly. Keep it goldfish-brain simple.
Nico uses his conceptual thinking and artistic skills to develop people’s ideas and motivate people to be remarkable leaders. For examples of his illustrations – see this useletter. Contact him at