Going Viral, It’s As Easy As 1,2,3

Posted on November 26, 2013

Going Viral Is As Easy As 1,2,3

If you were tasked with the job of making an organization’s message go viral, what would you do? Where would you start? I was wondering just that the other day, it’s something I think all marketing professionals wonder about and we’d all like to see at least one campaign go crazy (or if we’re honest, all of our campaigns) but the truth is, the fastest way to have a campaign go viral is to take your time.

There is nothing I find so frustrating as people talking about delivering a social media campaign without planning, investment or consideration.  It makes me groan and my frustration grow because it is based on a misconception that often plagues communications and marketing professionals, the idea that social media is easy and that success is just around the corner, if only the marketing manager knew what they were doing.

The truth is successful social media campaigns rely on the same three things that successful traditional media campaigns required. They just happen to be three difficult things for most businesses to deliver. Let’s look as some campaigns that have worked and try to determine what might have pushed them from just viewable to viral.

Who Gives – Humour and the Unexpected

This little gem doesn’t hit the really BIG numbers, but for a relatively inexpensive charitable endeavor it has managed to capture a fair bit of attention with over 8000 views and earned traditional media coverage as well. What’s it’s most notable selling feature? A rabbi in a dress of course.

This charity video poses the question, “Who gives?” and then shows Rabbi Avrohom Zeidman performing as a series of characters who run through every imaginable excuse for not giving. Within one week of being posted the 2 minute video had been played well over 7000 times.

Blendtec – Something You Always Wanted To Do

Blendtec’s, video campaign poses the question, will it blend? What follows is a series of ridiculous items that the blender is challenged to blend. These YouTube posted videos take the premise set out in the old Ginsu knives commercials and add power and imagination. Smart phones, lighters, boron steel and super glue are all put to the test. These videos have gotten millions of views and make up the backbone of Blendtecs advertising campaign.  The geek factor is high, but you can’t look away.

Old Spice – Surreal and Funny

The Old Spice commercials are among my favourites.  These beauties were popular on television, but they exploded on YouTube with each video getting millions and millions of views.

Not only do the videos use humour to deliver their message, but as the main character moves smoothly from one ridiculous accomplishment to another the viewer is left laughing and a little bewildered.  The best part of these ads is that, like the Axe deodorant ads, they appeal to a younger demographic making them fodder for shares, likes, posts, memes and quotes.

Although these campaigns each achieved different levels of popularity they do share some things in common. They are quirky, they show imagination and they have broad appeal for a younger demographic. The reality is that for most businesses a successful social media campaign sits closer to the first than the second example, a million views is far from the norm. Even with the accessibility afforded by social media, generating the kind of widespread attention it takes to be massively popular generally means that you are playing off of traditional media sources, as well as, social media.

Going viral relies on having at least two of the following factors in place, time, money and creativity. If you don’t have the money, then you definitely need to take your time and show creativity. One social media king we can learn from is a young man originally from Sweden who goes by the name, PewDiePie (Felix Kjellberg). He usually posts two videos a day and is also active on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. He has more than 16 million subscribers on YouTube, and every video he posts gets millions of views. He’s funny,  always irreverent, unexpected, creative, appealing to a younger demographic and most importantly, he is very, very dedicated. He started posting videos in 2009, but it was not until 2012 that he really hit his stride.

Have you ever had a campaign or post go crazy? Do you have any viral ads or videos that you love? What do you think it takes to make a campaign go viral?