Viral activity is the dream of many marketers, content creators, retailers, and businesses of all shapes and sizes. In truth it’s hard to find an example of a business that wouldn’t welcome at least a little viral activity every now and then. During this week I’d like to spend some time defining what viral means, examining some successful examples, and offering some insights on how you and your business might have a shot at achieving it.
It might seem like more fantasy then reality: a blog post gets thousands of views in a day, a video gets passed around via email and gathers attention, a relatively unknown song by a relatively unknown creator becomes instantly popular. It’s possible and we both know it is because we’ve seen it happen before. Unfortunately viral activity is still somewhat of an enigma for most creators. It tends to linger high in the clouds and always seems unattainable. The recent Old Spice campaign worked well (with great acting, production, and strategic placement), but I’m guessing you probably don’t have a budget to create content of that quality. The “Pants on the Ground” song became instantly popular last year (because it was hilarious), but I’m guessing you probably don’t have an American Idol sized audience.
There is hope for the small guys.
Believe there is. Dave Powers, a guy who started a YouTube channel earlier this year, is gaining some traction. With his clever and short home videos he is gaining a fair amount of attention and using it to help grow his business. The videos succeed because they use a combination of humor, informative tips, and brash opinions. It’s entertaining. It’s the type of stuff that begs to be shared.
There is a lot of rehashed material on the web. Innovative ideas and new concepts command attention. The website Texts From Last Night is an example of a simple idea that is exploding. Users submit hilarious texts and the best ones rise to attention. All the content is user generated. A single text might get shared, but the whole site within itself is naturally viral. It’s uniquely cool and it’s fresh. Websites like Failblog and Addicttinggames.com built themselves an empire over time because they were the go to places for great material.
Being damn good really helps.
It is a fact that any given article on TechCrunch or Seth Godin’s blog is going to be a hit. Both have built reputations over time of being great information sources. They couldn’t have a bad posting day even if they wanted to. The good news is that everyone has to start from somewhere and momentum can be gained at a surprisingly fast rate. Take two of my favorite bloggers for example: Laura Roeder and Mars Dorian. Neither of these bloggers are household names, but they create really really really solid posts. So solid that they are naturally sharable. Laura’s website is very simple, easy to use, and has a relatively no frills approach. The most important part is that her blog posts are good. Damn good. Followers want to share them and retweet them. Mars Dorian has a different, but equally intriguing style. His material is fun and full of personality. His energetic writing voice is addictive and makes readers want to spread the love. A chance of one of his posts going viral is far greater then that of your average boring business blogger.
Be a student.
Examining successful examples is highly recommended. Viral material has certain traits and falls into certain patterns. Find what works and throw in a little bit of creativity and your chances increase exponentially. In Part 3 we’ll have a look at how to get your content in front of more people in order to increase your chances of a major victory. Stay tuned.