When we see a viral piece of marketing content, two things usually happen to a marketer:
- We wish we were the brains behind the campaign; and
- Our boss asks us why we aren’t (sigh).
Although quality, price and marketing do play a part in the success of a product or service, it isn’t the whole story. As human beings, it’s in our nature to share information and communicate with others. When we come across a story that fascinates us, makes us laugh or cry, we simply can’t help ourselves but share it with the people around. This is how things catch on and go viral!
In his book Contagious, Jonah Berger explains the 6 reasons that make online content go viral and how they spread. He sums it up in the acronym STEPPS.
Let’s break it down...
1. Social currency
In general, people want to appear smart rather than dumb, rich rather than poor, cool rather than geeky. What does our product or idea say about the people who tell their friends about it? We share things that make us look good. What we wear, what we talk about, the car we drive influence how others see us. All this is social currency.
So to get people talking about our brand and products, we need to craft messages that will help our customers achieve their desired impressions, as well as provide visible status symbols they can show to others.
For instance, being the first among your friends to know about the new hidden small bar in the city makes you appear knowledgeable about the latest in the social scene.
How do we remind people about our brand and products? People often talk about what comes to mind. We need to design products and messages that can be triggered by surrounding cues.
For example, the colour red may bring Coca-Cola to mind on a hot day, and a sandy beach in a travel magazine may remind you of booking the plane ticket for your upcoming trip.
We have all heard of the phrase ‘sharing is caring’ (like when it comes to chocolate brownies). People share when they care, so when they are affected emotionally by something, they share it with their peers.
Think about why you just shared the video of a cat trying to fit into a fishbowl, or more recently, the news surrounding a dog-eating festival in China. According to Berger, messages that evoke high-arousal emotions, both positive and negative (awe, humour, surprise, anger, fear), get shared more than low-arousal emotions (sadness, contentment).
We need to focus more on the right emotion to evoke when we create marketing messages, and sometimes, negative emotions may also be useful.
When something is built to show, it’s built to grow. Whenever possible, it’s better to show than to tell. In this age where visuals can be so easily shared, there is no excuse not to utilise technology to showcase what your products can do or help customers do.
Subsequently, this enables imitation. Seeing others do something makes them want to do that thing themselves too. An example of a recent successful campaign is the ice bucket challenge. It’s only easily imitable when it can be observed, thus we need to design products and ideas that advertise themselves.
5. Practical value
People share news they can use. People feel good to pass on knowledge on improving health, saving time and money, making your job a wee easier. When you understand your brand personas, you also understand their needs, wants and pain points. This knowledge will help you create content they want to use and share with others.
Speaking of which, have you checked out our editorial calendar template? It is a great tool for helping you manage and distribute your content strategically without losing your mind.
People are storytellers (that’s why gossip get passed on at such a rapid rate ). All great brands also learn to tell stories. We recently touched on the topic of brand archetypes, which defines your brand personality. A strong and unique story builds brand recognition.
For example, Levi Strauss & Co. tells its brand story by drawing upon its history and heritage of making the first blue jean in 1873.
A final thought
It’s easy to get caught up with how and why people buy.
When you work on your next content marketing idea, think about why people share by putting yourself in your customer's shoes and ask, “Why would I care?” and “Why would I share?”, and you may just have yourself a potential viral piece!
And remember good planning is key for viral content. Get organised and download our editorial calendar template today!