The Viral Lottery

Source: stock.xchngThe other night I had a very creepy experience. One of my friends shared with me on Facebook, which led me to view a very disturbing and creepy video of a deranged man viewing my personal Facebook profile. That was days ago, and since then the site’s gone viral with more than 7 million people checking out the site in just over a week.

Porter Gale of AdAge attributes human narcissistic tendencies and the personal photo integration along with the talk value and pass along appeal of the execution to the site’s virality.

That statement gets to the heart of the matter today, and Gale does a good job getting to the heart of the why behind this particular execution. However, what about other efforts? The word “viral” has become this mystical beast. No one can put a finger on how exactly to make it happen.

Brands Don’t Make “Viral.”

Viral content, whether it’s a video, meme, photo, blog post or experience like Take This Lollipop, is not created by brands. A brand cannot approach an execution with the mindset that they will make it viral.

People make content viral. The act of discovery, experience and sharing over and over again makes content go viral. It’s caused by a domino effect of consumer behavior, not something a brand did.

Okay… But We Still Want to Go Viral.

At its basest level, social media marketing is sharing and encouraging other people to share, and at its basest level, that’s how viral content becomes viral. We, as marketers, can’t control whether or not what we do will go viral, but we can better our chances.

Get into a content mindset. Viral should be in the back of your mind, and content should be at the forefront. What kind of content does your audience consume? What is the emotional and/or physical reward for consuming and sharing? In the case of Take This Lollipop, the creator leveraged our egos by creating an experience all about us and delivered with an emotional payoff, fear.

Simplicity rules. Brevity and ease of use are essential. People won’t go out of their way to listen to your marketing message. Keep it short, and make it really easy to access.

Integrate sharing. Sharing capabilities should be built in. Allow users to post, tweet, “Like,” etc. The goal is for the experience not to stop with the single person you have captivated. Make it easy for them to share.

Launch when you get maximum exposure. Timing is key. When are your consumers online, and where are they going? That should play into how and when you decide to share. You don’t want to share when they aren’t online. It will likely be buried by more recent content when they finally do. Be as recent with as many people as possible.

Remember, there’s no guarantee. We don’t create virality. Our goal as marketers is to leverage the platforms and consumer behavior to make compelling content that has a payoff and is easy to share. After that, you’re playing the lottery.