This was the question that Becca Caddy posted to me for an article she was writing for Reputation Online. Becca was prompted to write the article by a piece by an op ed by Dan Greenberg over at Mashable. Dan laid out what three factors he felt were key to ensuring a video went viral:
- Psychological Share Motivation (an emotion that resonates with the audience, self-expression or useful content)
- Easy shareability
- Data-driven strategy (planning, thinking about where the audience would see it)
When I hear the word ‘viral’ I think of Nic Roope’s (of Poke London fame) tongue in cheek intro of Lean Green Fighting Machine at a Webby evening event a few years ago when he defined viral as something that was ‘a little bit shit’. It’s a much maligned concept. Marketers think that its ‘free advertising’, they think its cheap, that its easy and YouTube is full of ‘viral videos’ that would put you off watching video online for life (just go and have a look at Leicester County Council’s YouTube channel – or most local government videos for that matter).
I’d argue that Dan Greenberg’s points are actually equally valid for all social objects not just virality with video. The data strategy also needs to understand user contexts | intent – you could do a great viral campaign for hemorrhoid cream but I may not want to share it.
Shareability also needs to think about transmedia, not just online.
You also need to have a great idea – which is hard and even harder to keep untainted because everyone in marketing thinks that they are a creative and everyone in legal thinks that they are the god of everything. The idea may not be expensive, but having a budget helps. The idea is also hugely important for keeping the conversation going after the viral hype has died.
Finally all of this needs to come from an essential brand truth: Halo is a mighty saga – a silicon version of Beowulf, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk – is a comfort food, it makes people who eat it feel better… until the guilt kicks in about the calories, drug dealers are awful people who sell a crap product in the case of Pablo the Drug Mule Dog for the Home Office