Firmly established in the language is the expression “going viral,” that moment when an item of content on the web spreads exponentially like a virus pandemic, be it image, music, video, email, or tweet. It’s not an entirely attractive metaphor, laced with disease, however, it is the goal of every musician, artist, marketer, celebrity and Internet wannabe to have an item of their content ‘go viral’ and reach a mass audience. Hopefully because it’s good and not about to make them a laughing stock, but some people aren’t fussy.
‘Viral Marketing’ is an attempt to build value that far exceeds the cost of seeding it. By tapping into the network effect, a marketer can gain exponential growth in value (based on the number of people connected) while the initial cost remains fixed.
‘Viral Marketing,’ intentional or not, is based on Metcalfe’s Law, a method to calculate the value of a Network. The network effect says that the value of each potential sharer is proportional to the number of N, nodes in the network, or specifically, other individuals to whom the sharer can connect.
For viral marketers, this law is the embodiment of why the Internet and social networking sites in particular, provide the opportunity to create huge value and return on investment (ROI) through the use of viral marketing.
The more connections exist for individuals to share content, the more easily quickly and widely information can be spread.
To achieve a viral marketing success, the content has to meet two fundamental criteria:
- the content is worth sharing
- the content is shared widely enough to reap benefits of the networks on which it is shared
Types of Viral Content
Almost anything can become a viral:
- Articles and blog posts including cartoons and photos
- Interactive content – games, quizzes, widgets
- Video and audio including vlogs and podcasts
Here’s the nub of the viral; what makes it worth sharing?
- It’s funny, witty, amusing content, worth passing on like a good joke. Never underestimate the value of light relief in the modern world. Old Spice man.
- It’s unbelievable, lucky, or just plain dumb. Prat-falls, lucky escapes, accidents, animal attacks, or an end-to-end basket score.
- It’s emotionally engaging; be it human interest, foibles, or cute kittens.
- It fits our worldview. Anything that reinforces our politics, religion opinion and even prejudices.
- It’s thought-provoking. It brings ethical or moral questions.
- It’s outside the mainstream media. The Viral is the new route for the undiscovered, be it breakthrough news stories (Egypt, Libya, Syria), or breakthrough artists (Rebecca Black, Justin Bieber).
- It’s dramatic. Tsunami, earthquake, car wreck.
- It’s embarrassing. Take note Charlie Sheen, Pamela Anderson, Paris Hilton.
- It’s provocative or risque yet still safe to disseminate. The off-colour but not blatantly offensive joke or a clip of the Wii-fit girl.
All that remains is the choice of site to start the ball rolling, but that’s for another day. AJS