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Gini Dietrich

How to Make Your Content Go Viral

By: Gini Dietrich | February 7, 2012 | 
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We have an internal joke when a client or prospect asks us to help them create something viral.

We say, “Sure! Have two guys kick one another in the privates and it’s sure to go viral!”

The fact of the matter is, you can’t MAKE anything go viral. It’s not about how many shares you can get from your friends and family.

It’s about great creative, great content, and some fairy magic dust.

And, just because two guys kicking one another or cute puppies might work this week doesn’t mean they won’t be overshadowed the following week by a celebrity crying over a sloth.

According to an article in The Atlantic this month, companies are installing every imaginable share button on their content, writing articles, and then praying to the viral Gods that they would become overnight success because of all of the shares.

But then, surprise! An entrepreneur named Uzi Shmilovic examined eight ways Internet giants, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, have used virality as a vehicle for success.

Shmilovic emphasizes using a “Virality Coefficient” — “how many new users on average does one user of your product ‘infect’” — to measure to virality of a piece of information. A coefficient greater than one indicates exponential growth, the type that describes wildly successful Internet campaigns like the Old Spice Guy:

viral-formula.png

So now everyone is rushing to figure out what their Virality Coefficient is in order to make their videos, podcasts, blog posts, white papers, and more go viral.

The problem, of course, is “making” something go viral isn’t possible. It’s not a mathematic equation. There are human beings with emotions involved. There is nothing mathematical or scientific about that.

And, as much as we like to think everyone uses the social web, it turns out there are plenty of people who don’t. In fact, more people use email than social media, despite the growing number of users at Facebook. Most people create their accounts, spend a few days discovering what everyone is talking about, accumulate some friends, and never return.

I have a better idea. Determine your vision.  Invest some time (as in years). Work really hard. Build a community. Empower your brand ambassadors. Listen to your critics and detractors. Make changes. And someday, somewhere, you will have something that goes viral.

Everyone will think it was an overnight success because it’s the first time they have heard of you. But you’ll know the real secret.

Hard work, patience, and perseverance trump all.

Thanks to the Daily Mumbler for providing an image to prove my point.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

136 comments
Andrea T.H.W.
Andrea T.H.W.

If you like my two cents Gini things go viral when they create an emotion, either positive or negative. Things who make you cry, things who make you laugh, or angry and so on. I still remember that wonderful video about the lion who recognized his human friends after a year in the jungle. :)

Justicewordlaw
Justicewordlaw

It seems like with people that forget that patience and working hard really does pay off that coming up with a formula won't really matter. If your looking for content to be shared across the world wide web then be consistent with your message and try and voice your opinion on multiple communication channels.

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bouchane
bouchane

When is something viral? Recently someone insisted to me that a video online had gone viral. It had 1,500 hits and had gone our to a list of people who were likely to at least have a look. Is there a numerical benchmark for truly viral?

ElissaFreeman
ElissaFreeman

Personally? I prefer the 'cute puppies' to an equation any day! Sure you can try and process your way to a successful SM execution, but some things are just organic. But explain 'organic' to a client or a CEO who was raised in the CPG sector? Oy.

maddiegrant
maddiegrant

Haven't read through the comments yet but SIGH. I can't believe people still ask that question. People are idiots. /rant

ExtremelyAvg
ExtremelyAvg

This was a great post. I do like an impressive equation.

I became part of something viral on Super Bowl Sunday. A twitter friend, who does not like sport, had just bought my new book, "Two Decades and Counting: The Wins, The Streak, The Hawkeyes Thru the Eyes of Roy Marble", and while we were tweeting back and forth, I noticed he had slipped in a mention of a game called "Minecraft".

I asked him about it and he said it was a low-tech game, built by one guy, that had gone viral. I could do a search on YouTube and see it, if I wanted. I did want! The first video I found was part of a series, 1 of 81 videos. Wow, I thought. It must be some game to have someone make 81 episodes about it. Then I saw the number of people who had viewed episode 1, it was approaching 6 million.

Now, keep in mind, these guys who did the video didn't create the game, they were just playing it in Alpha. The creator was a guy in Sweden. This was at 10:30 am Sunday morning. I watched the first video. The graphics on the game are on the cutting edge of technology...for 1982. The two guys playing the game, who were British (everything is better with a British Accent), were very entertaining. After the 10 minute video, I decided to watch the next one.

I watched close to Eleven hours of someone else playing a video game on Super Bowl Sunday. I missed the commercials, 98% of the game, and was very much entertained. All the videos had over 2 million views and each one ran an ad.

I have no idea how much money one makes from that sort of ad penetration, but with 81 videos (I'm only half way through) it is sizable. Good for the guys from the UK.

The story doesn't end there. I decided to purchase the game from an equally unimpressive web-site. It has a tracker which shows that I was NOT one of the first 4 million people to buy it. The cost, $27.00. Yes, one guy wrote an addictive game, and unless I'm missing something, has already yielded over 100 million in sales.

Now, I've told all of you.

I'm curious, have you heard of the game "Minecraft" before, today?

Or the "Yogcast" videos?

I'm guessing no, but I would like people to answer regardless. I may not respond very quickly, though. I am probably going to play the game until I pass out from exhaustion. It is fun.

Latest blog post: Two Decades and Counting: Ch 4

AbbieF
AbbieF

Darn it -- no wonder I can never find the "go viral" button on a post. Shoot!

MorganBarnhart
MorganBarnhart

Completely agree! The term "going viral" seems to have lost all meaning these days. Everyone wants a piece of "going viral" but they try WAY too hard in order to achieve it. When, instead, they could just create awesome, valuable content! :) I've actually stopped working with clients who have the expectation of going viral; because it usually leads to a lot more impatience down the road.

JulioRVarela
JulioRVarela

You can't force it. And anyone who thinks there is a formula to it is missing the point. Bingo on the posting great content consistently that speaks to your audience. Going viral is like playing blackjack in the casino. You sit there for hours on the table, and then you get a lucky run. It is funny to see how people are "trying" to go viral but 1. Taking content that has already gone viral and stealing credit from the source and 2. Trying REALLY REALLY hard to be funny. Most of the best viral moments are authentic, simple, and real. You have 1 second to gain a reaction and have someone share the content. Use it wisely and buy some a rabbit's foot too.

jacque_PR
jacque_PR

@Andrea T.H.W. Really? And I thought Steven Tyler's sweet background serenade was what made me choke up... I stand corrected. ;)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@MorganBarnhart Yeah...the whole unrealistic expectations thing doesn't make it easy to be successful. We once had a client hire us right after Thanksgiving and expected to be on the front page of the New York Times by Christmas. As we resigned the business, I said to the owner, "Please don't do anything silly like burn down the White House in order to get on the front page by Christmas." He was not amused.

JohnMTrader
JohnMTrader

@ginidietrich You get fired up with the best of them. That was, by far, my favorite post of yours in 2012.

JohnMTrader
JohnMTrader

@ginidietrich As long as the post isn't about how cute koala bears are (including video), it's beatable. Love it when you raise the bar.

aakomas
aakomas

@ginidietrich Me 2! So cold & no white stuff to justify it. Not good mother nature, not good.

ExtremelyAvg
ExtremelyAvg

@ginidietrich To be honest, they are only playing the alpha and beta versions. The levels hadn't really been figured out. The draw was how funny the two guys were. Their interactions and humor kept me from leaving. It wasn't as much about the game, though the game is fun, as it was about their personalities. Also, I was curious about, "What they would do next?"

I love that we live in an age where entertainment can come from anywhere. I found the series as enjoyable as anything produced in Hollywood.

Latest blog post: Two Decades and Counting: Ch 4

Trackbacks

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