How to Do Viral the Right Way

After seeing this excellent JibJab video, I knew it would be an big hit. With the YouTube versionbeing viewed over 100,000 times in a day, I’m pretty sure it satisfactorily meets the definition of “viral.”

 

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When we encounter brilliance, it is commonly useful to examine the elements of it that make it successful, so that we can also duplicate it.

1. Create compelling content
There are many ways to create content that is likely to be widely distributed. Content is compelling to mass audiences if it contains at least one, but preferably two of the following elements:

  • It is unexpected
  • It strokes the egos of the intended audience (Case in point)
  • It is considerably funny

2. Make it easy to consume the content
Be platform and website agnostic. Commit to go wherever your consumers are. That means, as in the above example, if your audience is on YouTube, if the content is video, post it on YouTube. The chances of your content being consumed decreases proportionally to how difficult it is to consume. Typically (but not always), this forbids requiring users download extra software to make it work.

3. Make it easy to distribute the content
This is where a lot of efforts fall short. It isn’t necessarily because they are overlooking the step, but that they don’t recognize the viral potential of it. Maybe they’ll even spend the money to point a few ads at it and miss a great opportunity to help others pass it along. (Related post: Missed Opportunities and Distributable Content)

As a viral campaign, even ElfYourself would have died in its tracks had users not found a ready link to participate.

4. Plant the Seeds
It’s tempting to overdo this. If your content truly is remarkable and compelling, it will spread organically pretty quickly. However, don’t underestimate the time it will take to plant the seeds right.

It is critical to first identify the brand or category-specific (or even just the brand or category-friendly) conversations already taking place. Even if it doesn’t fit your predefined notion of who your audience is.

For instance, you may be in the underwear category, but if your approach to marketing your underwear really is compelling, let the marketers know about it. Chances are, someone will want to talk about it.

I don’t know how they did it, but the above video (minus my head) made one of the morning talk shows, and I have little doubt radio DJs across the country have been touting it, too. Part of this is seeding it where it will be seen, but even that would have been impossible but for the nearly universally compelling content.

What makes something viral?
The term “viral” was not selected by accident. A viral video or campaign, like a virus, is communicable. It infects our consciousness to the point that we feel compelled to pass it on to someone else.

JibJab’s effort with Time for Some Campaignin’ here was successful because they incorporated all of the essential principles of making content viral.” It wasn’t easy, and it certainly can’t be considered “free advertising.” However, it’s funny and relevant, but most of all, it’s communicable.