04 Jan 2018 21:06 IST

Going viral 101

While there are no guarantees you’ll always go viral, here’s a nudge in the right direction

Nearly 20 per cent of internet users share a video at least once a week, and almost 10 per cent share a video every day. Companies should find ways to tap into these ‘super sharers’ who will help a marketing campaign go viral.

So why do some videos catch fire, while others just sputter out?

A study by a marketing technology company talks about the two most powerful drivers of viral success — psychological responses and social motivation. The former is about how the content makes you ‘feel’ and the latter is about why you want to ‘share’ it. Sharing is the Web world’s word of mouth. But what makes a video ‘shareable’? The study found that if the video is deemed to be worth sharing, the phenomenon takes place in the first few minutes of the viewer receiving it, and soon after a video’s debut.

Interpersonal relations

Some of the identified social motivations to share a video are opinion seeking, shared passion, expressing kudos, and the need to socialise. The labels speak for themselves. Mobile devices have become the most used communication medium, only after face to face interactions. So it is not surprising that all of the motivators mentioned above are just expressions of human inter-personal conversations. Online videos further that cause.

The psychological aspect of video-sharing is a function of which emotion the content taps into. Studies find the top four drivers to be warmth, humour, hilarity, and surprise. Knowing this will help advertisers plan their creative executions.

Still, the question remains — can virality be engineered? For all the campaigns that go viral, thousands remain unnoticed and create no impact at all. It is better to accept the truth: viral isn’t a quality that marketers can control. But there are some steps, if orchestrated carefully, that can increase the probability of virality.

Good storytelling

First is a unique storytelling focus. This means that you need to take your target audience on a journey, allure them and help them connect with your story. Engagement on a deeper, emotional level happens when the target group’s needs are being met. For example, targeting the youth today involves humour, whereas for senior management, mentoring relationships may be the way to their heart. The marketer needs to figure out what works best for their target group.

The biggest outcome of a good story is that it gives viewers something to talk about. One measure of story quality is its ability to generate such conversations. People want to be seen as contemporary and these stories provide that opportunity.

The second step is managing digital platforms, where the audience reach gets defined. It is critical to identify digital influencers with large online followers who can carry your story forward. Recently there was an idea to ‘Rally for Rivers’, promoting the linking of rivers, which reached many of us through varying groups, most of them being celebrities or well-known faces in their chosen fields. This is a great kick off point for the whole campaign.


The influencers chosen should be popular and respected, and the selection process for these influencers should be rigorous and professional. After an initial short-list, engage and build a relationship with the ones with the most potential . Don’t forget to obtain adequate knowledge about them by way of past workand current brand associations. Once they are selected, begin an active process of incentivisation. This could be financial/monetary or non-financial, such as the status of a ‘news breaker’ or creating awareness about a social cause, for example. The idea is to make them feel valued.

The last aspect of the distribution strategy becomes important after finding success with a particular influencer. How is the video going to be distributed; is it via Facebook, TwitterYouTube?- The platform should have the capability to aggregate content and redistribute it to a much wider audience. A combination of used, paid, and owned media (such as websites) can be utilised at this stage.

There are a lot of advantages of going viral. Apart from production costs (usually a fraction of what is spent on television commercials), the media airing costs are exponentially lower in ‘viral marketing’; whch is why it is important to understand the art of making content go viral. While there is no guarantee that virality can be engineered with 100 per cent consistency, following the above steps will definitely improve its chances.

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