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Act Natural: The Key to Going Viral?

Today, with so many brands and organisations pinning their marketing colours to the digital mast, and so many PR and Social Media Agencies racing to provide the latest thinking, strategy and execution, one problem that is increasingly asked is how to ensure a social object goes viral.

In short, and as any PR Agency of Social Media Agency worth their salt (as well as keen not to create a rod for their own backs) will say, there are no guarantees when it comes to creating a viral object.

Whilst not offering guarantees of success is an accusation often thrown at the PR sector (given that traditional PR success is most usually dependent on third parties, most notably journalists, running stories rather the PR themselves having absolute control), when it comes to the question of creating a viral object, that reticence is entirely appropriate. As rather than being reliant on perhaps one or two links in the chain (a journalist or editor perhaps), going viral is dependent upon an almost infinite number of links in the chain, to achieve a critical mass.

Moreover, the nature and DNA of the best viral activities is that they are organic and natural rather than manufactured. Consumers are not daft and even the merest whiff of an ulterior, manufactured social object, rings of advertising – and they would of course be correct. That is not to say that a social object created with the objective of going viral that has been created very well, with genuine consumer interest and appeal will not be successful, but just that it would undoubtedly be more successful; more viral, if it felt natural to the consumer / viewer.

That is not to say that brands and their agencies should refrain from the objective of creating viral campaigns, but just that they understand the unwritten rules before they begin and recognise that there is no secret recipe to ensure success.

Before embarking on any campaign whereby the objective is to achieve as high a viral element as possible, it is important that the creators consider what makes inherent, natural social objects go viral. Importantly, people share things that make themselves look good, whether directly (such as a personally tailored object) or in-directly by association; where the sharer basks in the light of being the discoverer and sharer of the object.

If brands and their agencies can keep those thoughts central to any social elements that they are creating, they will at least have ticked the primary boxes. It’s not rocket science and there are no guarantees, but keep it relevant, give users a reason to share and keep it natural.

Philip Keightley is an account director at SEO, social media and PR agency Punch Communications. With offices in the Midlands and London, Punch delivers results to its clients through integrated strategies, where each area underpins the other. Specialising in digital PR as well as traditional media relations that lead to print coverage, the clients that Punch service span a wide range of sectors, sizes and global locations.
To find out how a PR, social and search agency can transform your business, visit punchcomms.com or call +44 1858 411 600.

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