A million views and wildfire-like social sharing is something many content creators dream of. Although hard to (intentionally) pull off, it’s not impossible. Here is how you can make sure you produce content that gets people sharing.
In digital marketing, any type of content is produced with the main goal of reaching and impressing the target audience. For this reason, marketers write and design content specifically meant for them, both with using the right style, content and with the help of targeting tools on social media.
But sometimes, pieces of content or visual ads achieve a viral status and reach thousands or even millions of new people. Although not necessarily important leads for your business, these people will nonetheless be in contact with your brand, and that is great for brand awareness. It also shows the algorithms of social media platforms and search engines that your marketing campaigns are relevant, so the reach continues even further.
So, needless to say, creating visual content and blog posts that people will love sharing is something that you should strive to accomplish. Here are some general guidelines on how to do that.
Do your research
As with any action in marketing, you have to start with researching your target market and audience. So, start by setting up goals and objectives, and put a well-thought-out strategy in place.
Let’s say your objective is to increase your social media followers from 10.000 to 30.000 by the end of a marketing campaign that runs for three months. Or that you increase your number of subscribers by 15%. Both seem like hard-to-accomplish tasks, but with catchy content and a clear call to action that takes people to your platforms, it’s doable.
The next logical step is to determine what your target audience enjoys. What are their favorite media channels they spend time on? What kind of media do they prefer to consume, share, and interact with? Do they respond better to written or visual content? How long is their attention span? Determine where to start your campaign and what media to employ based on your responses
Finally, look at instances of viral material created by your rivals in the past. Draw some conclusions about what made the content so popular and strive to give something even better next time.
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Any company, starting from small businesses to large corporations, performs better if its clients and potential customers find marketing to resonate with them.
People will like sharing your content if they can see themselves in it. It is a common misconception that you need to look more professional and stern in order to seem trustworthy.
That might have been the case before, but with the rise of social media and easier connection between cultures, generations and people of all backgrounds, informal communication is on the rise.
That means that people like to see a kinship in the tone of voice and content itself. Let’s say in content creation, instead of writing in an academic, third-person style, you use a first-person perspective and a friendlier tone of voice. This will help readers relate more to the content, and even keep their attention for longer.
When it comes to visual content, however, this might mean adopting a more natural and friendly visual style, or even using internet slang, memes and informal channels.
Here is a cool example of Spotify being relatable to people who listen to music and podcasts in the car, and who fight being party animals and lazy in the morning. AKA young people, or their base target audience.
Evoke an emotional response
People respond to ads because of a certain emotion they awaken in them, be it happiness, sadness, hunger… You name it. If you want your ad to be shared by hundreds of people, you can play the emotional card too and play their heartstrings.
When online content makes us feel a particular emotion, be it happiness, sadness, heartwarming inspiration or even making us simply aware of an issue, we want to share it so we can bond over those feelings with our close ones. In today’s era of “meme culture”, this happens more often than ever.
Here is a visual ad that is sad and concerning, but extremely straightforward in conveying a message. Needless to say, it became viral content fairly quickly on social media.
We mentioned relatability and emotional response, and laughter is both of those things.
Apart from being viral, humor also helps viewers of your content feel a positive emotion. Besides making you a likable brand, this informal way to approach customers and stay in their minds and hearts has a simple chemical explanation: laughing creates endorphins, and relaxes the body, helps relieve stress and simply makes us feel better.
Now, compare that to the never-ending doomsday news we’ve been receiving every day for the last few years. Would you remember seeing something funny on social media? Of course!
That is why people keep sharing funny ads: not only does it elicit a positive reaction, it also stays remembered better. Here is a funny visual ad I think about very often.
Only five minutes after Joe Biden was announced as the new President of the USA, the Danish furniture manufacturer Vipp, mostly known for its garbage bin, posted this photo on their online platform.
It quickly became viral, as social media users appreciated the humor and shared it on their own profiles. 48 hours later, it had an organic reach of half a million, with not a single cent spent on sponsoring. So, this is an amazing example of unpaid social media marketing, with more than 300% organic reach (compared to the usual 2% since Facebook’s latest update).
Many posts that have become viral are not funny or emotional. They are just useful, and people like to share a piece of knowledge with others. That kind of viral marketing is most of the time the goal of content marketers, who write long-form content that is organically discovered.
A tool, infographic, or original study can all be examples of useful material. Rather than being globally viral, this sort of information tends to get viral within the industry.
That’s because creating broadly beneficial content is difficult when brand fit is a factor. However, industry-wide recognition may be just as effective as broad recognition in terms of authority and brand awareness.
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Know the value of the element of surprise
One way to surprise the target audience and loyal readers/viewers with unexpected content is to adopt the usage of moment marketing. Moment marketing is the capacity to capitalize on ongoing events and create communications and marketing collateral around them.
Simply explained, moment marketing is broadcasting or publishing marketing messages in a short-term news cycle, which include commentary or opinion about news or events that are currently taking place or are popular in the media.
Usually, it is free, as it doesn’t require paying for an ad campaign that circulates for a long time in the media. It is more of a tweet on a whim or a meme.
Your customers are on social media all the time anyway. So instead of interrupting their leisurely scrolling with a pop-up or putting an in-stream video in their YouTube bingeing, you can interact with them as if you are one other person on their news feed: by commenting on something that is currently trending.
Here is how Durex reacted to the first image of a black hole. Not only is it a quick and hilarious response, it surprised everyone that they managed to create such a unique ad for a completely unrelated event.
Time it well
In order for your post, content or PR stunt to go well and be shared by the thousands, you should have good timing. Because of bad timing, your attempt for a viral post might go under the radar, but it might also go horribly wrong if it comes across as tone-deaf. A well-known example is an ad in which Mr. Peanut, the Planters mascot, “died ‘’ in a TV advertisement whose premiere coincided with the death of basketball player Kobe Bryant.
The company had no way of predicting what could happen, but this otherwise creative publicity stunt would have been more successful if the accident didn’t happen then. They, of course, stopped showing it very soon after.