We’ve all been there. A client or team member mentions making a viral video and we all slouch down and cringe. Not because the idea of making great video content is scary, but because the goal of creating something that will go viral is a risky one that is out of our control.
What we can control is the content we create and how it is distributed online.
As marketers, we often look to research and numbers to tell us how to better our work. Don’t worry – we’ll get there. But before we do, take a step back to think about yourself (a rare opportunity to be openly self-centered – you’re welcome). Why do YOU share content online with your friends and followers? What do you share most? Interesting articles, funny videos, cool commercials – what is it that makes you press that share button? This is important because once you put yourself in your audience’s shoes, you’ll be able to better understand what they really want to see online. Here’s what we do know from research (I told you we would get there):
- 61% of users share “interesting things”
- 43% share “funny things”
- 29% share “unique content”1
We also know that evoking emotion is really important, with the top three emotions being: awe, laughter, and amusement.2 This is critical information to keep in mind as we think about why content is shared, because it’s less about the brand and more about the content and the emotion it evokes.
The Purina Puppyhood Video is a perfect example of this, and is Buzzfeed’s most shared branded video, with 75 million views and 2.8 million social shares.3
You do not have to (and shouldn’t!) attack this alone. In fact, there are tons of folks out there who are experts and specialize specifically in sharable content. A great way to get your content out there and into the right hands is to partner with content publishers and social influencers. Let them do the heavy lifting! They already have the large audience, and people are already sharing their content. Like a lot. So no need to reinvent the wheel. Phew! For Puppyhood, Purina partnered with publisher Buzzfeed to create and distribute the content. This allowed Purina to tap into Buzzfeed’s huge fan base that already reads Buzzfeed regularly and trusts the content. It also allowed Purina to tap into the right audience.
Budget for media dollars
“If you have a party, you need to invite people – otherwise it’s just you and the chips.” A phrase I use often and one I wholeheartedly believe in. Having the right media budget will ensure that you can target the right people who will be interested in your content. It provides you the reach you can’t cover on your own. Media dollars could go towards Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and units on relevant sites. Of course it should be noted this list should grow and change based on the content created and your intended audience.
Lead with the story and let the brand follow
In the Puppyhood example, you’ll notice the brand’s logo doesn’t appear until the :19 second mark, and even then it’s not front and center:
The product (Puppy Chow) doesn’t even make its first appearance until the 2:00 mark, which gives the viewer time to become invested in the story before being introduced to the product. Now not only is the viewer invested in the story, they are also more likely to share it with their friends because they aren’t simply promoting a product – they are sharing something valuable.
Make sure it makes sense for your brand
Purina’s entire Puppyhood content strategy is based on research. They are clearly targeting a specific audience – millennials ready for a big commitment like a dog – knowing that they will be receptive to this type of message. Your content should always fall within your overall brand strategy and align with what your audience is expecting from your brand. It should never be created just for shock value.
As the great Salt-N-Pepa said, Push It
Online, brands have the opportunity to push themselves further than they might with a more general audience TV spot. With targeting and distribution, brands can deliver hyper-relevant content to audiences who want to see it and share it with their like-minded friends. You can create different content for your different audience subsets, and you also have more time to tell a story compared to the normal :15-:30 second confines of TV.
As you set out to create content, remember that it won’t magically go viral. People have to see it, they have to relate to it, and they have to feel proud to share it because ultimately it’s a reflection of them. Even more so, they have to have a reason to interact with it in the first place. That means targeting the appropriate audience and putting them first, and then thinking about your brand. It’s no magic bullet, but it’s your best shot for getting shared.