Viral marketing is nothing new, but social networking has changed the way we think about it. It has never been easier to share something en masse, and there have never been so many different platforms on which to do this. That said, the key to dissemination is not only utilizing every outlet available but also creating content that people will want to share. After all, you can have a whole host of share buttons accompanying your content, but ultimately the decision to share is up to the user. Here are a few things to consider when aiming for the relentless ubiquity associated with viral marketing.
Define your message. What is the one thing you want people to realize when they view your content? In one sentence, articulate that in specific, but not overly complex terms.
Choose your tone. Viral content tends to evoke either laughter or tears. Do you want people to be ROFL-ing all over the place or do you want them to be moved?
Target your audience. Most viral content targets the younger generation because it is a demographic that is more tech oriented, more likely to share content, and has more free time on its hands. That does not mean you should never target an older audience, but if going viral is one of your goals, you need to include that younger, social networking savvy population.
These three steps are the easy part and should guide you through your creative process. Once you have generated your content, you should review it with these principles in mind. Assuming you have successfully created compelling content, it is time to begin the process of propagation incorporating old school and new school techniques.
First and foremost, if you are hosting your content on your own website, you should make sure that it is accompanied by the gamut of social sharing buttons. Next, you should directly post to each of those social networking sites. Upload it to Facebook, Tweet about it on Twitter, Pin it on Pinterest, and so on. Next, ask friends, family members, and colleagues to do the same. Be courteous, however, and do not wear out people’s good will. Remember, your social networks will see your posts and that is usually when they decide whether something is worth sharing. If you have a large community that you can call to action, by all means capitalize on that. If it is genuinely relevant to someone, they will not hesitate to pass your content along.
The media drives a lot of the attention viral campaigns receive so you need a media coverage strategy. Compose a brief but interesting press release that will accompany your content. In addition, you will need to draft an email pitching it as a story idea and personalization is critical to its success. Whether you are sending it to the local news station or a national media outlet, include a sentence about why it is relevant to their specific audience. If they can immediately see the connection and it is truly compelling, chances are they will be happy to spread the word. In addition to the press, you should approach bloggers.
Start with a list of 50 writers who possess a high degree of authority and a substantial audience. Choose people who are related to your industry or cause and provide a rationale for why your content should be covered by them. Much like how you will approach the media, personalization and specificity is key. If it reads like a form email, you will lose them immediately. We all receive a lot of email, but prominent bloggers receive much more, so keep it brief and interesting. Refer to their body of work or a recent post, and concisely explain why this should matter to them and their readers. Your press release will include all the important details, so do not worry about providing background information. Your primary objective is to have them check out and share the content.
Viral marketing campaigns thrive or fizzle based on your actual content. If you devote the majority of your energies to creating compelling content, it will spread like wildfire. Of course, you still need to share the content with the world, so be proactive and professional about it. Make the most of social media, approach the press, and enlist prominent members of your online community to disseminate your content. Yes, going viral requires a significant amount of time and attention, but anything worth doing does.
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