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Is Viral a Real Strategy?

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Updated June 29, 2016
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Is Viral a Real Strategy?

Is Viral a Real Strategy?


Tim Brown

Tim Brown is the owner of Hook Agency, and strategic marketer focused primarily on driving traffic and leads for small businesses and construction companies.

I recently started shooting a video that I hope will create a natural buzz, be some sort of viral and it got me thinking: is this a real strategy? Yes their are some breakout hits in the form of videos like ‘Squatty Potty’, but does this make sense for more than just a select few with a decent budget to create an amazing video? Ours is somewhat contained to what we were able to do in-house for cheap.

Squatty Potty’s viral commercial:

So what gives, is viral a strategy?

Apparently of very intelligent people in our industry think so. From my perspective, can you bank on a break out hit? Probably not. But we do have the opportunity to take a shot at ‘some kind of virality’; some version that is attainable for us, and I still think that’s worth persuing.  Let’s look at some recurring elements of viral campaigns that may help you find a way forward with some thought towards this phenomenon.

  • Bring your product to it’s most extreme version of itself as a stunt.
  • Draw an association, or team up with a seemingly unrelated partner for a quirky result.
  • Work with people that have a strong following and ask them if they’d be open to sharing your thing with their audience.
  • For some, actually gating access and requiring people to request to be a part of it can generate some buzz. Of course a classic example of this is Facebook which was invite only for awhile, creating a demand because of a perceived scarcity.
  • Make it highly visual and the promotion highly visual, and lower the amount of ‘brand’ so it’s not perceived as a hard-sell ‘commercial
  • Think of a viral campaign as a ‘trojan horse’; your brand story should be neatly encapsulated inside not plastered all over it like cheap graffiti
  • Emotions are your friend – if you can draw a tear or warm the heart, especially in a dramatic or un-expected way, virality is in range.
  • Stick to only a couple marketing messages within the campaign or the complexity will drown out the message, or people may not share because of thinking involved.
  • Create a hashtag so that people can see what others are saying about it as well, and potentially use that in the video title to make it really obvious what people should use.
  • Although you may lead with funny or dis-arming, always try to include key info at least in the description or potentially in key areas to let the magic of customer acquisition actually happen. The ideal is that you surprise and delight people AND then they turn into a customer- or at least share the video/infographic/thing, not just that you surprise and delight a bunch of people that go on their merry way.
  • Don’t knock people over the head with it. Share solidly on all channels and well, potentially rinse and repeat – promote and incentivize shares with an item that complements the message of the campaign, but don’t push it out there 5 times a day. If it blows up, it was meant to blow up, if not you will need to regroup and come up with a stronger premise the next time.

No matter what, you shouldn’t take one epic shot at viral, dizzy yourself and never try again. Just like anything you’ll likely need to try a couple times before you hit some acceptable level of success. Viral is a difficult strategy and requires a very creative premise, and better than average execution, but I still think the elements of virality and taking a hard shot at it every once in a while is well worth it if you understand the costs and that it’s not a sure thing.

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Tim Brown

Tim Brown is the owner of Hook Agency, and strategic marketer focused primarily on driving traffic and leads for small businesses and construction companies.

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