This is not a blueprint on how to make your content ‘go viral’; it’s a cautionary tale of why you shouldn’t try so hard.
Every content creator dreams of their content ‘going viral’ and many bloggers and video creators create a piece of work with that in mind. The problem is going viral isn’t guaranteed.
Understanding why people share things is half the battle but going viral shouldn’t be your main aim. If you create content in the hopes of going viral you may become deeply disappointed when it doesn’t.
1. Aim for shareable, not viral
Most of us create content to grow and nurture online relationships and to define ourselves from the competition. We create content that will be valuable and entertaining to our audience. Instead of aiming to make your content ‘go viral’ you should aim to make it shareable. Remember why you write or create art and do it with integrity. Nobody wants their content remembered for the wrong reasons.
I’ve been looking at some of the most shared content from the past few weeks and thinking about what drove people to share that content.
John Lewis Christmas advert 2014
The John Lewis Christmas advert has become one of the most anticipated signs that the holidays are coming, in the UK at least. They learned a hard lesson in 2012 when having spent £6 million on their snowman campaign they got brandjacked on Twitter. They failed to create an online persona for their snowman so somebody else did.
The following year they did better and ever since then, their Christmas adverts have become the bar that other big brands hope to surpass during the Christmas shopping frenzy. Basically they don’t have to try too hard for this advert to go viral.
This year’s advert features Monty the Penguin and comes with obligatory Twitter account and hashtag.
Shared because: Emotional, the video usually makes people cry; it marks the start of Christmas spending.
Rosetta Comet landing
There’s no way landing on a comet would not go viral, how often do we do that? This topic amazed the world whilst bringing out the inner cynic in some who then jumped on the #WeCanLandOnACometBut hashtag.
The landing stayed in the news for a few days longer because during interviews Rosetta scientist Dr Matt Taylor wore a t-shirt with cartoon images of women wearing bondage gear and firing guns. There’s nothing like female outrage to set a topic trending.
Dr Matt duly apologised for his bad judgement and even broke down in tears while doing so.
— BBC The Sky at Night (@BBCStargazing) November 16, 2014
Personally, I was more interested in his tattoos and the hope that employers would stop stereotyping tatted people.
Shared because: Pride, technological advancement, another giant leap for mankind, public outrage.
Drunk Girl in Public video
Hot on the heels of the 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman video the Drunk Girl in Public video was labelled a social experiment and went viral pretty quickly. After watching it, I couldn’t help thinking what a crock of shit as it all seemed staged and I wasn’t the only person to think that. The video had some people riled up and calling the men rapists and all sorts so it initially garnered the response it was created for.
However, it was soon revealed that the video was indeed staged and the ‘random guys’ on the street weren’t so random. The guys who were misled into doing the video are not happy as for some, it has affected their jobs and friendships.
People were so outraged at the violation of their emotions that the comments section had to be turned off on the video. This is an example of going viral and creating without integrity.
Shared because: People were disgusted at the way the girl was being treated in the video; people were disgusted at the way the viewer was being manipulated. Public outrage basically.
Kim Kardashian’s butt
I can’t mention Miss K in the headline and not talk about her feature in Paper magazine’s Winter 2014 ‘Break the Internet’ issue especially as it almost overshadowed the Rosetta Satellite landing. The viral content I’ve talked about so far have all played to the emotions somehow and the nude pictures of Mrs West are no exception. Whilst some people were rolling their eyes cynically at the talentless woman using her assets to promote herself once again, others were amused at the Photoshop work that went into the images. One writer asked whether this has ruined Kim’s brand. I thought nudity was her brand!
Shared because: She’s Kim, people love to love, hate and berate her.
2. Create with integrity
Kim’s butt didn’t break the internet but it got people talking and mostly not in a good way. Unlike Kim, the rest of us have to care about what we put out there, the Drunk Girl video is a classic example of things backfiring when you fail to create with integrity.
Content will always be king but marketing is queen. Most content that goes viral appeals to the emotions in some way so that’s a clue for you but remember don’t aim to ‘go viral’ just keep creating honest, entertaining or thought-provoking content you will always be proud of. But if you insist on trying to ‘go viral’ here are some things to think about:
- People share content for a variety of reasons. The key to producing content that is more likely to be shared is to engage individuals emotionally.
- Your content doesn’t have to be positive to engage with users but remember in some cases, the use of strong negative emotion may impact negatively on your brand.
- The stronger the emotion accessed, the more effective the content will be.
Remember, you can always try brandjacking or jumping on a current wave just like supermarket giant Asda have done.
Asda’s champagne buyer Ben Mistery put out a press release titled ‘I like big savings and I cannot lie’. You get that right? If you didn’t, the words are a play on lyrics from Baby Got Back by Sir Mix A Lot. The release includes the following:
“Get yourself to Asda and crack open a bottle of fantastic champagne to celebrate the festive season. There’s no bum deals on wine at our stores this Christmas so don’t miss out and end up the butt of the joke at your Christmas party.”
Whilst it didn’t trend on Twitter, Asda’s timely campaign certainly got people talking, proving there is still mileage in a good pun and brandjacking can work.