So you want to build viral events. Join the club. Many an event marketer has dreamed of watching their event make such an explosion that it takes on a life of its own. And while many brands might stumble onto the viral effect, there’s often more strategy involved than you may think. Launching a successful viral marketing campaign has been compared to herding cats: you just can’t force it to happen. That said, there are some things to consider that might better the chances of blowing up your viral content. While nothing can guarantee the viral effect of an event or campaign, the following tips might give you a leg up.
1. Break a world record by design. Adding a layer of importance to your viral content can widen the scope of your audience and open it up to vastly more clicks. Highlighting a record-breaking moment is a great way to do this. Being the biggest or first to achieve something turns heads and is more likely to attract free media coverage, which can significantly boost clicks. Freightliner leveraged this approach by turning the Hoover Dam into one of the world’s largest biggest projection screens, breaking the record for highest light output projection. Less than two months after the event, the brand had earned more than 400 million impressions in traditional media alone.
2. Make your brand evangelists a part of the marketing strategy. Sock brand Ace & Everett did as much with its 100 Man March, a promotional event in which fans of the sock brand are given the same color pair of socks and parade around pantsless. The first two iteration suffered from small participant size and a centralized approach to content distribution that sent out the the documentation too long after the event to have an effect. For the third iteration, the brand enlisted the help of the marchers themselves. They then sent event photos to all participants and asked each of them to post their favorite to social media within 24 hours. A day after that, Ace & Everett posted a video of the march to the brand’s social channels. Verdict? Viral.
3. Consider how long the public is willing to engage with your content. The attention span of humans now rivals that of a goldfish so to build a viral event hooking your audience within the first few seconds of a video is crucial. In 2010, the New York Times reported on a study of a phenomenon call “viewer abandonment” or the tendency for online viewers to rapidly grow tired of content. The study showed that 19.4 percent of a video’s audience tunes out after 10 seconds of viewing. For viral marketers, this means keep it short and sweet: get to the point as soon as possible, and have consistent eye-catching cuts and content that draws wandering minds back in.
4. Use strategically-worded brand messaging. Playful, personal, or conversational headlines—especially ones tied to emotion—are more likely to attract eyeballs than news-oriented ones. Compelling but easily digestible detail or splashy adjectives can make a big difference, so make sure you’ve got a catchy way to hook your audience from the get-go.
5. Don’t force it. Many people can find overtly branded content off-putting. Worse yet, if the content is contrived or misleading, it leaves recipients with a bad taste in their mouths that they now associate with your brand. If you’re going to go viral, it won’t be because you overwhelmed your audience with calls to action. For better or worse, going viral can’t be faked, and relies on compelling content. If you’re too pushy, your content may not make it past your own social channels. So be strategic about your timing, content and audience, and let the rest progress naturally.