Viral is a term that’s bandied about a lot in marketing these days, but what exactly does it mean?
Simply put, viral marketing is a type of advertising that uses existing web 2.0 properties and technologies to achieve its objectives – whatever they may be. However, despite the growing proliferation of so-called viral content – marketers are still struggling to harness the power of viral.
– A Viral Campaign is born
Despite several high-profile viral campaigns coming into the public eye in recent years, the majority of brands that attempt this enjoy mediocrity at best and sustain damage in the worst cases. There’s one simple reason for these depressing figures – creating content that shares and promotes itself is hard.
Viral content is inherently unpredictable and while brands looking at examples of success can take inspiration – replication is fundamentally impossible. Similarly, while viral *should* cut out a lot of the costs associated with promotion, the returns can be tenuous at best.
While the most shared video of all time racked up a respectable 100 million shares – some of the most popular are fortunate to pass six figures in this regard.
– What Makes Viral Content Go Viral?
The qualities that make viral content a success are oft-debated and hard to pin down. Viral videos are hard to compare to image memes or real-world crazes (e.g. planking) and are pretty hard to contrast with one another.
However, there’s definitely some correlations that can be made as to what makes viral content so shareable. Web 2.0 is simultaneously a step forward and backwards – as technology has progressed, it has enabled us to carry out traditional social activities within the sphere of the net.
Recommendations from family and friends have always been important and the social web has enhanced their availability (and in case of ‘friends’ their definition) exponentially. The type of content shared can differ greatly, but seems to appeal to our most basic emotions – humour, awe, empathy and arousal. And those that take this appeal to extremes tend to do better.
– Is it worth it?
Given the difficulty associated with creating viral content and the dubious returns, is it worth it? The short answer is ‘yes – but only for some’. Viral content lends itself to some products better than others – although the unlikeliest of businesses can sometimes make it big in this area.
There are a number of issues with relying solely on viral content and the main one is lack of control. While brands can engage in some paid promotion – they’ll largely be depending on the popularity of the content in ensuring its proliferation. Similarly, unlike a traditional advert there’s little opportunity to include a strong message.
However, even if you opt not to engage with this decidedly risky prospect there’s no reason why you can’t co-opt the techniques of viral content in promoting your business. If you make stuff easily shareable, give your target audience an incentive to share and add some kind of interactive or community-based element – you can reap the rewards of viral while forgoing much of the expenditure.[divider_1px]