Your business has a cool product, service, concept or niche. The inexpensive, effective advertising campaign on millions of people’s lips as the ‘must have’, is the golden fleece you are searching for next.
If both product and ad campaign, idea, unique selling point, are great, then the dream of creating something on the web that makes something/somebody a household name, is within your grasp.
If you think big, think mass-campaign, you will be wanting it to ‘go viral’, so popular that people see it in their millions. To make that happen, you need viral seeding.
You plant a seed (your message) into fertile ground (the web) and water it with occasional updates, new twists, comments and watch it blossom. Or put another way, viral seeding is the beneficial virus you launch that spreads your message throughout the net.
Or it’s the equivalent of media buying and planning in mainstream advertising. But whatever you call it, the greatest piece of creative work is not going viral if nobody sees it. It can end buried so far back on searches, it disappears. So a strategy is needed.
This four-part methodology gives you a heads up: identify your target users, understand their interests, locate sites relevant to your interest groups and work out your relevant seeding method.
A few detailed tips ensure the message spreads like wildfire across the net:
Your initial idea must be capable of copying itself accurately, or it will soon become lost in changes and confusions. Think of the game of Chinese Whispers, where a sentence is whispered round a number of people, who don’t hear it properly so add to and change it. And that’s not what you want.
Better is the simplicity of email, to give an idea. Cut and paste or forwarding on, and the message is unchanged, arriving quickly and verbatim. Spam filters and some reluctance among users to open unwanted emails, but once the content has inspired some to send it on, people will open emails from sources they know.
The faster the data is reproduced, the better, and therefore, the more people picking up on it and passing it on, the more securely the campaign will grow exponentially and really take off. People’s motivation for sharing is almost as varied as people. A survey at Danzarella found different motivations for sharing, which include personal relevance, utility (beneficial, useful, helpful to a friend), humour, relationship building, common interests, conversation starters and ‘they might miss it’ as motives.
This is known as increasing the reach of material. The better the SEO of course, the better people find the content and the more likely they are to spread it themselves.
Obviously audience needs to be as wide as possible, but it’s logical to suggest that social media users are more inclined to share content and spread the word. A surfer who is on for limited times or confines his/her activity to emails or specific browsing is less likely to even think of passing something on to other users.
Equally, the regular, committed social media fan will be more likely to realise that something is hot or trending, look at it and spread it.
Although everything in cyberspace is forever, the fact is that most content is around and visible for relatively short periods. Good seeding needs a degree of permanence for later reference back, and possibly forwarding to others afresh. Users might bookmark the best and most appealing as well as share it.
Given the volume of material even a cursory search of the net opens into, it’s essential that users trust the source of your viral message. There is a trust threshold for different content. Jokes (photos, videos, satire) are likely to be shared even if the source is unknown/untrusted. Instructional content demands greater trust, while news items tend to require very high trust, unless they are simply rumours, in which case viral hardly describes the speed of transmission of juicy gossip.
Personal or business authority adds weight to your message; your standing and reputation even online help to encourage sharing of your content. Email chains are still effective; inviting votes, thumbs up, likes and making sharing as easy as possible, also make fertile the ground for viral growth.
Sites That Spread
Inviting user comment adds new dimensions, new angles and ensures higher interest in the original message. Digg, StumbleUpon and Reditt, for example seed content superbly, as they allow exact replication, have massive audiences of mainly web-savvy people and are around indefinitely.
Company blogs also build an audience of often loyal and committed followers (including many customers) to like the brand, image, message and style. Again, they are more likely to share what they like.
To get a mention on the blog or tweet of some celebrity who has massive numbers of frequent followers is another way of going viral. It’s simplicity itself to transmit a mention, praise, comment to any number of others.
A YouTube clip is the most convenient way of going viral, though often it’s the bad things, mishaps, mistakes, goofs and unbelievable moments that do best on that platform. But even that, for those who take the ‘all-publicity-is-good’ line, can help to get over a point along with the laughter.
A favourable mention of a particular product or service is worth more than any amount of prime time advertising. So, cultivate like-minded celebs by sharing to them, offering the service for free, getting some good verifiable references. If your content chimes with people’s business, fields of interest, causes, worries, pleasures, hopes, then they will (often inadvertently) help your campaign.
Facebook has an audience of millions, but is not so effective at virally shared content, though a business without a Facebook presence is going nowhere, on the ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ philosophy of advertising.
One of the joys of web commerce is that old practices are swept away, now most people can reach millions of others in seconds, particularly with a well-planned campaign.
Newblood, Optimising with white hat SEO.
Photo: liz west