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Can we make a marketing campaign or a video viral?

Image from http://grovetimes.com

Certainly one of the goals of any Brand, advertising agency, marketers or social media strategist is to create the next best thing that everybody will talk about, to become creators of that great content which in a matter of days or weeks will hit the trending list on the web and people will be talking about in the streets.
But the answers of this question has to parts: in one we can say its more literally and has a negative answer: NO, WE CANNOT, the reason of this is because the virality of a campaign or video we create (as a content creators or strategist) is out of our hands, we cannot decide if that content we just create will spread as fire on a dry forest, the Audience is who decide that virality, and as Social Science its not and exact Science, it can some times be unpredictable, its changing all the time and its alive and in a constant movement, it cannot be control.
The second part of this answer is that we can’t decide which content or campaign it will go viral, BUT WE CAN use some key elements to make that content propensity to become viral, as the surfer cannot control the sea nor the wave, but he learn how to know were and when the tide will be perfect to ride it and uses it in his favor, we can use some structure and elements on the content and knowing about human conditions and their physiological needs for share, we might manage to pull some emotional strings , so then we can, on a subtle manner, influence them to try to hit that “share button” that we want them to push.  I’m not talking about social engineer, but just plain social engagement and empathy.
To do that, we need to understand the basic structure of viral content, identify the manner on how this content is presented, and know what particular psychological needs its hitting, what are those triggers that we need to be activated, understand the medium, and understand that nothing can be taken for granted, and mostly, decide which is our main audience and what types of people will be those evangelist of our brand or idea who will spread our content and target them.
Viral Marketing can be define as “any technique that induce website or user to pass a marketing message, content or material to other users, creating a potential and exponential growing on the visibility and effect of that message, acting in a few words as a Virus. In the same way in biology a virus (a microscopic entity) can multiply inside another cells on a living organism, an idea, key message, political ideology and social or marketing content will spread for mouth to mouth (or mouth to mouse) through any electronic or analog media.” -Margaret Rouse - TechTarget
  
As in a Movie “Inception” by Christopher Nolan put it, “The most resilient parasite is an idea planted in the unconscious mind”




 
First of all we define what a Viral Campaign does, and basically do six things:

• Give a valuable and relevant content, products or services
• Provide with our effort information of any type to others
• Its scale easily from small to bigger
• Take advantage of common behaviors and motivations
• Use existing communications channels
• Take advantage of contents from others
The most important reason of why content become viral, is Motivation - Psychological need for sharing. Dan Greenberg, Mashable 2010. Emotions are a basic necessity of the human being and on line is not different that in a real world, in fact the medium allows us to share easier, ideas and sentiments. If your content or campaign captures emotion that empathizes with your audience, your content will have more propensities to be share.
A three main points to consider:

• Exploit a Psychological need for sharing
• Make an Easy to share campaign
• Make a Data-Driven Strategy

The Psychological need for sharing it can be divided on the next points:

• Identity and expression of one self
• Information
 
Talking about the target some might say that we need address to a seven evangelist, David Meerman Scott, The New rules of Viral Marketing” but as I become aware after reading the book The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwel, I do believe that we can do it just by reaching at least three types of people, in his book he describe three types of general personalities, and I emphasize “general” because is it true that now the audience (mainly the new millenniums group (Those who grew up in the 90s and 2000)) – Laura Norén- The Society Pages-, are more difficult to classify in just one type of person due that they share the same nature than the medium, new media is evolving every day and changing all the time  so the audience cannot be taken massively because every day its become more narrow, so we talk mainly as a generally personality first.
First are the Connectors, which are people who connect people to each other, (that is they nature). The second is the Maven, that connects people through sharing knowledge, and the Salesman (is the most common personality that we are use to know), who is a person that uses his knowledge to engage and persuade.
If we manage to get some people that have these personalities, the probabilities of reaching a greater audience increase massively, basically because if we manage to engage them with our brand, video or campaign they will be share our content and these people are follow by a great number of audience, and it will take us less time and less budget if we try to making it in our own.
Finally are people like Yin Gui-sheng that are trying to attack the Viral Marketing problem by creating an intelligent algorithm to predict which content will be Go viral. In his paper “Intelligent Viral Marketing algorithm over online social network”, they tested an algorithm training a machine to learn features on those viral content, such as images or videos, type of image, formats, if is a close up or take it outdoors, time and place the content was shared and a profile of those people that share that content, this method is being called “Cascade” and they still doing some findings since the paper was published in 2011 until now.
Also is Jonah Berger that claims in his book “Contagious”, (I haven’t read it yet) to have found that “going viral isn’t Random, Magic or Luck, its science.”
Whether those two last examples are having some positive results on predicting which content will become viral. I still believe that if we just focus on creating great relevant content, identify correctly our main audience, having some help from evangelist of our content, and keeping a record of results and statics of our campaign’s performance, eventually we will get some of the key messages through and reach out our main target successfully, of course that we never can forget that our products and services must be great too, otherwise no matter how successfully or viral your campaign or content become, if your product or service sucks,  there is no magic or science that can changes that.
To sum it all up:
We cannot decide which content or campaign will become viral, but we can create relevant content for our main target that have some key features that will make our content more propensity to become viral. Some of those feature are: engaging our audience with emotions and universal human feelings, to give some relevant information, and exploit the psychological need for sharing, that some times are expressions and identification of they virtual persona.
If we manage to identify what our real target is and we can identify among them at least three types of personalities, we can easily reach more people by engaging those evangelist of our content.
Those three types of personalities are: 1) people who connect people to each other, 2) people that connect people through sharing knowledge, 3) People that uses his knowledge to engage and persuade.
Keep it simple and narrow, great content about great products and services to the correct audience delivering clean and relevant messages in a creative manner through the correct channels where our target lives, and we just might be successful if the audience decides to.
Víctor J. Garza
References: Margaret Rouse – TechTarget, Movie “Inception” by Christopher Nolan, “3 Things Any Video Needs to Go Viral” by Dan Greenberg, Mashable, “The New rules of Viral Marketing” by David Meerman Scott, “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwel, Laura Norén- The Society Pages, “Intelligent Viral Marketing algorithm over online social network”- Yin Gui-sheng-, “Contagious”by Jonah Berger

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