When it comes to digital marketing, a viral content marketing campaign is on the wishlist of perhaps every seasoned client. Virality can be a great advantage – instantly generating millions of views and impressions and consequently, business by leveraging the connectedness of social media. However, engineering virality is not easy. I have run several digital marketing and social media campaigns and have managed to manufacture just one viral content marketing campaign. To engineer this campaign, I had analyzed countless other viral campaigns from within and outside India and I learned a thing or two. This blog post is a short version of the tactics I discovered. Most of these tactics are interconnected and the beauty is that once you’re able to crack one of these traits, the others fit in automatically.
Here are 7 tactics for creating a successful viral content marketing campaigns:
1. Simplicity – Viral content marketing campaigns are easy to understand.
Communication that tends to go viral, tends to be dead simple to understand. It’s the inherent simplicity which makes the idea easy to spread and easy to stick. How can you make your marketing communication simple? To break this done further, simple communication is short and catchy. It easy rolls of the tongue of the masses. It takes less than 10 seconds to understand and participate in. Think of “Ab ki baar Modi Sarkar” or “Will it Blend”? Both ideas had this inherent simplicity.
Ask yourself this – how can you rework your content strategy to make it more simple for the masses? Can you remove complex words, principles, facts, insights and base your marketing campaign on simpler ones?
2. Newness – Viral campaigns have an element of newness.
Cliched but true. People are always hungry for new things. This innovativeness is perhaps why manufacturing viral campaigns is so difficult. In most cases, this newness is just a new way of looking at the same old things. To get that fresh perspective, my ex-boss often encouraged me to have new experiences in my personal life because it was those experiences which was going to define what type of communication I produce. To meet new people, try new things, visit new places. To do that consistently, I came across this book and tried out new things to do every single day.
This is what they mean when they say – Step out of your comfort zone. In fact, here’s a great book by Andy Molinsky which can help you step out of your comfort zone:
3. Minimal rules – Viral campaigns are very easy to participate in.
Designing simple communication does not make a digital campaign go viral. You have to ‘enable’ consumers to participate in the campaign. Having a whole bunch of complex rules, terms and conditions will only avoid that. Who wants to spend 5 precious minutes reading through the fine print? This is a point many digital marketing managers miss out on for fear of their brand getting diluted!
4. Shareable – Viral campaigns are shared proudly and widely.
Connected to simplicity and newness is an element of share-worthiness. Is your message share-worthy? If it sits on the timeline of a user, does it make their timeline better or worse? Does it make them look cooler in front of their peers? Cracking the share-worthiness of a marketing campaign is quite tricky too. Buzzfeed has been sharing brilliant recipes for the home and kitchen through their Nifty and Tasty videos. These videos usually get a 2-3 Billions views consistently and have spawned countless imitations, partnerships, sub-brands etc. The content is quick, visual, snackable and highly shareable:
Can you make it look ‘cool’ for your intended niche audience? Or make it highly relatable? Can you directly connect with nodes(people who love sharing content and who have lots and lots of friends) in the social networks you’re trying to go viral in? Can you make your campaign easy to replicate?
5. Visual – Viral campaigns are highly visual in nature.
Nearly all viral campaigns that I’ve studied, whether it’s the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Will it Blend, Livestrong, Movember campaign, all of them are highly visual in nature. Visual content is easier to understand, furthering the objective of simplicity. Next time, think visual.
Can you add more visuals to your viral content marketing campaign? Can you add photos, cartoons, video, GIFs, simple iPhone videos – or any other type of visual? Can you describe your story in the form of a powerful visual?
6. Story – Viral campaigns tell a compelling story.
We don’t love advertisements. We love stories. If your campaign can tell a compelling story, in all likelihood that story will sell. It will have to be simple. It will have to offer something new. Hence, it will become shareable. Bollywood is notorious for churning out movies with the same basic storyline based on a formula. Yet some stories go on to be blockbusters while others fizzle and die out. Have you ever thought why? Connecting your brand to a larger story can often add that story. In hindsight, this is exactly what we did when we connected a dating app to breaking stereotypes.
This campaign created a larger story – that this dating app did not just connect individuals which were compatible. This dating app wanted to break mindless stereotypes so that people did not form first impressions on the basis of a paper resume.
Can you connect your brand to a broader theme or social message? Can you create a larger brand story?
7. Value – Viral content campaigns provide value to consumers.
If your content marketing provides tons of value to the reader, they will automatically want to share it with others (shareable). Buzzfeed’s nifty and tasty does this extremely well. Which is why the videos get over a billion views consistently.
Aashish Chopra, Ixigo’s content marketing head, is perhaps one of the most recognised content marketers in India. He has mastered the art of showing value in his simple and snazzy videos, which usually go viral. I managed to pick his brain as to what makes content spread online. Here’s what he has to say:
One thing we need to realise as marketers, is that our audience ain’t sitting in a movie hall with 3 hours of focussed attention. We play in a world where users are bouncing in their news-feeds, and we need grab their attention, provide value and make the video compelling enough to get a ‘share’ The topics must be share-worthy, videos must be native to mobile screens, first 3-6 seconds are most crucial, so move fast and engage. Also, for a tiny mobile screen you don’t need fancy production value, keep storytelling kick-ass. Making a video is half the game, other half is distribution. Make sure you can get those initial shares on a video on release, get creative in involving your close community, be it friends or office teams. Don’t think like a campaign, think what conversation will this video start. And last but not the least, Don’t be making Ads! Nobody gives a f**k about us, our brand, services or shiny products. It’s about them, their pain points, their happiness, their challenges. Provide value first, branding next.
Viral content marketing is a difficult nut to crack but if you manage to do it you will become a strong proponent. Viral content taps into strong online networks and spreads fast, far and wide. Due to this, as a business owner, you will be flooded with more business, enquiries and leads than you can handle. If you’re a small or medium sized business, there’s a high chance that your systems will break and you will have to move swiftly to redesign them so as to capitalize on this new found publicity. All said and done, viral marketing is perhaps the most effective type of content marketing campaign anyone can create.