The question, “what makes content go viral” is frequently bandied around in marketing. And it’s one we’re getting much better at answering. A mixture of experience and data has moved the industry forward, and virility is no longer a question of ‘luck’. Overall brand content video sharing is up 22% this year. And it’s because we’re getting better at understanding the art & the science.
Two players in the shareable content world have spoken up on their thoughts in the last two weeks, so we thought we’d give an overview. The first is Buzzfeed, a general human-first interpretation. The second is Unruly, a company focused more on data & distribution. It’s useful to put the two side by side.
When Buzzfeed take the stage as they did at the Social Media Masters Summit recently, most people sit up and listen. They’re no mugs. They delivered 8 key thoughts.
The first, was make content you yourself would be proud to share. Simple point, but important test. Second was to not underestimate the power of cuteness. Basically, cute animals. They’re dynamite. Third, humour is social – aim for the funny bone. This came with a caveat, unfunny brands shouldn’t try to be funny. Unruly have even sterner opinions on that, which we’ll come to…
Fourth, nostalgia. #TBT has shown that everyone, irrespective of age, has a penchant for the past. Use this. Fifth is an appeal to have heart, by which they mean, everyone works hard: make their day nicer, better, funnier.
Sixth, appeal to people’s sense of identity. They point to the success of posts such as “What Londoners say Vs What they mean”. Seventh, capture the moment. It’s obvious: reflect the zeitgeist. And lastly, eighth, be yourself: audiences know if you’re faking it.
All this is true and important – but there’s a lot more to making something viral. Unruly’s recent white paper, a study into the 2014 Super Bowl ads, illustrates the new strategic approach well.
Unruly identify how the content must embody two crucial elements. The first is picking a desired, intense psychological response – and working it to the max. There can be more than one psychological response – but at least one must be truly intense. Intense enough to elicit a physical response: laughter, goosebumps, tears. The most successful of the 2014 Super Bowl ads focused on pride, warmth, happiness, inspiration and awe. Humour can be incredibly effective – but it is incredibly tough to do well. At the Super Bowl most aimed for humour, and most missed the mark. Only genuinely hilarious videos won shares. Anything less than ‘hilarious’ simply wasn’t enough. One key myth to bust is that ‘funny’ is key to viral. The strongest ads from 2014 used warmth and happiness as their key triggers – generating stronger psychological responses from viewers.
The second crucial element is the strength of social motivations. This important metric is what encourages the viewer to execute a sharing behaviour. Weak share motivations impact sharing behaviour. The top videos from the Super Bowl inspired sharing through some Social Good, Shared Passions, Opinion Seeking or Self Expression. Marketers must focus on shareability as a key metric, because those who share a video are 50x more likely to trigger a purchase in their circles than a lower impact recommendation, such as a TV ad. Social recommendations also increase brand recall by 7%.
And distribution is key. Speed and scale can determine success. The video player, the size and composition of the distribution network, plus the timing of the campaign launch and flight all contrive to provide the correct environment for shares. It’s an environment that can entirely morph over a couple of days: getting it right is crucial.
Creating viral content is no longer about luck, it is a calculated collusion of data, strategy, insight and creativity. But you still have to get it right.
Posted June 6th, 2014 by talkpr