Over $46,ooo and counting for potato salad on Kickstarter. For potato salad.
Zack (Danger?) Brown decided to make some potato salad and enlisted the help of Kickstarter to raise funds. Whether it was the sheer curiosity of where it could go, or the entertaining description and goals set by Zack, or that hungry people really just wanted some potato salad, word of the Kickstarter project spread. Fast.
Of course it’s not just potato salad that has this effect on the internet and all too often, a highly popular event online sparks a number of copycats. So it brought up the debate with our team, is there a formula for viral content?
In my opinion, there is a formula for going viral. That formula is:
1. Be genuine.
2. Be in the right place at the right time.
3. Don’t TRY to go viral. Just hope.
With point number three lies the problem. How can you get something to go viral without trying? The answer is, you really shouldn’t even try. If we are talking marketing for a company, you time is much better spent doing the tried and true processes that have been proven to work.
I distinctly remember at one point last year sitting in a local coffee shop waiting for a client to arrive, enjoying my coffee, checking emails, when a group of folks came in and sat at the 4-top table near me. They ranged in age from early 20s to late 40s by my estimate. They sat down with their drinks in buzzing conversation, full of energy. They’re conversation bubbled over about a video sweeping the internet. I soon realized the group was made up of marketing professionals from a local bank and what they were discussing was how they could make they’re own Harlem Shakes video so they could go viral.
If there ever was a formula for creating viral content “me too marketing” was never part of it and never will be. All one can hope to do is start with a compelling message/product/story/introduction and then think through the best method for delivery that matches the purpose of the brand.
There’s no true equation as to what will make content go viral. I think if you look at some of the most notable things that have gone viral though, there’s an emotional element whether it be something genuine, laughable, memory invoking or just plain unexpected.
Many viral creations are like a splash in the pan though. They’re hot for a minute and then gone. And does it really help you achieve your goal? One of the viral campaigns that comes to mind is the Devil Baby’s Attack promoting the movie Devil’s Due. Promoters used a possessed animatronic baby to scare passersby on city streets. The video spread like wildfire online, but in the end, the goal was to generate interest in a movie, and unfortunately, the ticket sales weren’t there.
If you are successful with having your content go viral, the big question is what next? If you can manage to tell a story with your content then there’s a repeatable factor that can be recreated if done right and not worn out. I think of some of the successful campaigns like Old Spice and Dove who started with one campaign idea but then realized if they could capture those same elements but in a different context, then they had a winning formula.
One of my favorite examples of a piece of content gone viral is Warby Parker’s Annual Report. Why would an annual report ever go viral? Because they made a story of 365 days of the company culture and events in a visually engaging way. It’s been such a great tool that they’ve continued to invest in its development annually.
Lebron just announced about 3.5 seconds ago that he will be “coming home” to Cleveland, and the news has already gone viral around the world. I don’t believe there is a formula for anything to go viral, but we are humans, we are constantly starved for entertainment and information. Quite frankly, we can never get enough of it.
At this point, we have all seen just about anything and everything go viral and such content is helped by trending features on Twitter and Facebook that provide this information daily. There are no answers to why a hamster eating a piece of pizza goes viral, and there never will be. All we can do is sit back and enjoy it.
Photo Credit: zhouxuan12345678