Going viral? 4 must-haves

by Urs E. Gattiker on 2012/03/04 · 45 comments 19,339 views

in c corporate blogging,c micro-blogging Twitter,e marketing 101 social media trendwatch,social media diary

Viral marketing
McDonald’s, P&G, and salesforce.com try hard to engage clients or donors and fail often, but Ms. Bruni-Sarkozy shows us how it’s done: 4 ingredients your video must have to go viral.

What got me going on this topic was a fellow member’s post in our Social Media Monitoring group’s conversation on Cebit and going viral that included a link to a salesforce.com video.

YouTube Preview Image

This suggests that all it takes is to reach and infect as many people as you can with the bug, in this case to watch the video and share it with friends. But is it really that easy?

Below are four points you need to consider to ensure you have a chance at going viral with your video.

By the way, most people stop watching your YouTube video within 5 seconds. Accordingly, do not waste precious seconds, but cut to the chase – NOW.

1. The cause: Accentuate the positive

A cause is a powerful motivator that can get people to rally, such as helping refugees, the homeless, child vaccinations and so forth.

Cause marketing refers to campaigns that combine efforts of both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Social media cause campaigns are similar ways to inform, raise awareness and funds for the cause (e.g., fighting cancer, eradicating malaria).

Popularity, reach and affordability make social media an attractive vehicle for non-profits, charities, schools, hospitals and other organizations with a cause.

Non-profits have access to the story and the constituents that care. The latter represent the passion behind the cause and can bring a program to life. To find out more about how you can succeed with social media cause marketing, follow over 5,000 people who have already subscribed to this blog:


Take-away: If you have a cause and can show people their help makes a difference it will strike a chord and likely connect, thereby making them more willing to share your message.

2. Human angle: Empathy and cool-factor are it

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy’s 45-second Born HIV Free Campaign video is simple, short, and powerful, with a call to action no one can refuse.

YouTube Preview Image

Videos such as, Why Red Bull does not need Facebook to go viral, illustate that your message can be for a commercial product. As long as it is interesting and exciting to your target audience, it could go viral.

Article source – Strategizing: Remember your building blocks?

Take-away: Getting people’s attention without deceiving them is a powerful way to get them to act. This is not about ‘sin-free’ seduction (e.g., consume electricity because it is wind generated), but changing your behavior to make a difference in your and other people’s lives. Still, not everybody can get Carla Bruni-Sarkozy to support a cause or Roger Federer to be a brand ambassador (see video).

3. Freebies = Success

There are always people who love getting another discount or freebie. This has long worked with timeshares, where you listen to a sales pitch to get a gift. Of course, the seller hopes they can rope you into purchasing another timeshare week.

Does this work in social media? Of course it does, as Starbucks and others have demonstrated over and over.

Take-away: If you are in B2C (business to consumer), offer your clients a special deal or discount, or first choice to order. If you sell a luxury item, invite clients to an exclusive event that includes stardust (i.e. George Clooney is attending). However, if you sell power turbines, this approach might work – but don’t bet your house on that.

4. Story it well

This two-minute commercial features the 81-year-old Clint Eastwood (a movie hero revered by both conservatives and liberals) as the face of this new spirit of American industry. It tells a story about Detroit with his voice and moody shots of everyday American life. Aired during SuperBowl 2012, this 2:01 half-time commercial has a superficial purpose of selling cars, but the story also tries to encapsulate rising optimism about US industry. Not until the last six seconds do Chrysler’s brands appear on screen.

YouTube Preview Image

By the way, no matter what, even the above superb video cannot beat people’s interest in watching the funniest Superbowl ads online instead And the winner is?

Take-away: The Chrysler ad expresses how people feel and plays on emotion while telling a story. Giving viewers a primal, real, tangible sense of optimism works every time. Nevertheless, being funny and weird seems to be more to John Doe’s liking.

Bottom line: Beware diminishing returns

In the EU, 99 percent of all companies have 250 or fewer employees, while 96 percent of US companies have 100 or fewer employees. For them, the point where we reach diminishing marginal returns with viral marketing is sooner rather than later. Nevertheless, for large businesses and non-profits such as charities, I continue to believe there is value in trying to go viral with a video – if you follow these four points.

Of course, having the budget to do any of the above or getting your famous ambassador to promote your product for a fee or free does make things a bit easier…

Finally, if you have cult status like Apple, your product – Siri – is part of a sketch comedian Robin Williams does on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Beware: Italian luxury accessories brand Tod’s removed its account on YouTube and any webpages with an embedded Tod video show a YouTube message that the account has been removed. Is this a message that you want to convey to your fans?

Are you with me on these trends? Please share your thoughts below (click to write)!

@ComMetrics Going viral? 4 must-haves | Tweet This

Tip: Search for more ComMetrics and CyTRAP sources on viral marketing and branding (click to query).

More information about viral marketing

I wish our product videos would go viral like this one from Cebu Air
ComMetrics social media cost classification model (see also 2011 trends: The social media cost-benefit pyramid)
The social business maturity model
Achieving better cost management
Peter Kim – Is social media free?
Going viral or selling product: ROI anyone?

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  • http://karenpurves.com karenpurves

    Viral videos can be likened to the old fashioned print advertisement. Remember the days when you place an advertisement, well a series of them really, and have the phone ring off the hook. Of course, everyone had heard it happened to some a company… not many had actually experienced it themselves.

    And, this is the same for viral videos. The four points are very similar to the old advertsiement
    – have a celebrity to endorse
    – grab the attention … in advertising that would be the headline and the content
    – go for the emotional hook
    – call to action…. get something for nothing

    When considering social media marketing, the channel is new but the premise behind the communications is the same. Context, Content and Channel has changed, don’t be fooled that it is Completely different.

    • http://commetrics.com/articles/what-they-do-not-teach-you-at-lady-gaga-university/ Urs E. Gattiker

      @karenpurves:disqus thanks for stopping buy and sharing your insights.
      Yes I agree, it looks like the old and I agree it does. Nevertheless, I wanted to emphasize a bit more that it takes four things to succeed:
      Trying to repeat Bruce Springsteen’s feat is posible but it takes four things:1. The cause: Accentuate the positive2. Human angle: Empathy and cool-factor are it3. Freebies = Success4. Story it well
      What is different today is that a video can go viral.  It was not possible 12 years ago because the social web was not as prevalent in our lives as it is today.  So some things stay the same but a few do change :-)

      @havemoreclients:twitter thanks for sharing.

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  • http://twitter.com/kdietz Karen Dietz

    I agree with the points made here as it relates to creating a viral video about a product. But sometimes a freebie isn’t relevant or required.  Especially in nonprofit videos.

    I love this video that’s a retelling of the Three Little Pigs from The Guardian, which has been very popular: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=vDGrfhJH1P4  It really is a demonstration of exactly what the author is talking about!

    On another note, I ran across this article yesterday about “Let’s stop saying ‘viral.’ The author prefers ‘spreadability’ versus ‘viral’ because the focus changes from the mere passing along of material from one person to another, to better understanding the range of activity the consumer engages in when sharing something.  Here’s the article: http://socialmediatoday.com/maggiefox-social-media-group/461743/let-s-stop-saying-viral?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Social+Media+Today+%28all+posts%29

    Any thoughts?

    • http://commetrics.com/articles/what-they-do-not-teach-you-at-lady-gaga-university/ Urs E. Gattiker

      Dear @KarenDietz:disqus    

      Thanks so much for your links above, really appreciate it. I went and looked at @mmccudden1:twitter (Michelle McCudden’s) video here:

      ===> Michelle McCudden – It’s Not Going Viral!

      Nuggets she presents
      She states: Viral is a “…. fine way of thinking of a traditional computer virus.” I do disagree with that one but let us leave that problem for now :-)

      Instead, she rightfully suggests we should ask ourselves if the video or content is:
      – sharable, and/or
      – dynamic?
      In turn, is it spreadable  (shift from viral and use the term spreadable)?

      Michelle then presents 5 characteristics that help making content go viral – sorry spreadable or dynamic from @henryjenkins:disqus, namely:
      1 – does it represent the person?
      2 – does it have value for my relationships?
      3 – does it express my beliefs?4 – does it help me understand the group i’m in?
      5 – is it easy to share (no sign-up necessary to download white paper)

      Viral is not a strategyPlan carefully — think about the user experience (see five points above)
      My 6 CENTS
      Thinking of viral as being a good metaphor for describing the traditional computer virus is not a good analogy.  A better way is to use the term malware (includes viruses, botnets and so forth).
      Nevertheless, the public continues to use the term viral to describe content or videos being shared amongst many users or malware being spread. To me, I do not care that much if it is called viral or spreadable (remember your last Marmite or Vegamite sandwich) to describe the process of how this content gets shared with many.

      What I do find interesting are the five characterstics… mentioned in the video (no clue where Jenkin’s article can be found though, anybody?)I would add a number six, namely:

      – People share content to promote themselves = if I share will this help building my personal brand? 

      Interesting, dynamic and sharable matters but in age of the personal brand it also matters if content helps me look better (however I define it as a corporate brand or charity). Accordingly, I learned I need to consider the above 5 points made by  @henryjenkins:twitter AND point six above ===> people share to promote themselves <====
      What you think Karen?

  • http://twitter.com/kdietz Karen Dietz

    I agree Urs and thank you for summarizing Michelle’s points from her video and the article.

    In some ways I do think what you call something is important — because language shapes our thinking. When we call something ‘viral’ it allows us to only think in certain ways. I do not find the term ‘spreadable’ that much different than ‘viral’ however. So I think the hunt for a better metaphor is on.  ‘Spreadable’ really is not a metaphor like ‘viral’ is. It is more of a descriptor.

    In any event — I keep thinking that adding humor into the mix really aids a piece of content’s likelihood of being shared. Humor fits into the Human Factor & Story It Well in the original article, and all of the points in Michelle’s piece.

    I do like your original 4 points and when combined with Michelle’s they make for a dynamite list that expands share-ability beyond products and into other business/non profit realms!

    • http://commetrics.com/articles/what-they-do-not-teach-you-at-lady-gaga-university/ Urs E. Gattiker

      I agree with you Karen, absolutely ‘spreadable’ is not a metaphor like viral.

      I also think humor is an important ingredient in this work where we hope to have a conversation and possibly build our brand.

      I am still waiting for my first viral video :-) and thanks for sharing Karen.

      • http://twitter.com/kdietz Karen Dietz

        LOL! Me too :) I keep practicing — maybe one day I’ll get to say, “Hey, I started a virus today!” 

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