- Sunday, May 8, 2016

How to Go Viral and Spread like an STD Part II

Part II of How to Go Viral and Spread like an STD. Let's take a look at some viral material and analyze it. Originally featured on The Write Moms.

Blogging | Go Viral | Internet Marketing

When one of my friends’ blog posts went viral, she credited her claim to fame to sheer luck. In fact, most of my friends with very successful blogs seemingly have no idea how they went viral. They try very hard to give advice to help people do the same, and their advice is usually very good advice, but we do sort of know how some things go viral on the web. So let’s examine some of the most popular viral things in the last decade to find the secrets.

What does ‘Going Viral’ Mean?

Going Viral, according to Urban Dictionary, is when “an image, video, or link spreads rapidly through a population by being frequently shared with a number of individuals….”
For most people, trending means everyone is talking about it, but when something specific is shared or trending with the basic message in tact (minus some slight moderation or reposts), it’s considered viral.
For purposes of here, I’m going to consider viral content to be defined as stuff that got internet famous.

Examples of Viral Content.

Viral Videos

With over 33 million hits, PooPouri changed the way we poop forever.
The Holderness Family set out to make a viral video, and their #XMAS JAMMIES has over 16 million views.
Gangnum Style with 2.5 billion views was not an accident. And known for making viral videos, College Humor’s parody, Mitt Romney Style, has over 58 million views.
Trololo Video’s original upload has received  over 21 million views and many other uploads with millions of views. See the original here (best quality you’ll find).  I personally like to listen to this one while baking Christmas Cookies for some reason. This is a story where a vintage song gained new fame thanks to the internet. The singer had no idea for the longest time his video was uprooted and famous.

Viral Fads

While most people who use the term “Going Viral,” may not consider this part of the category because it’s not something you create that gets shared, but some trending actions and behaviors have gotten famous enough to be considered viral for purposes of understanding virality. The message is still in tact because while everyone is doing their version, the original act pretty much remains unmodified.
Planking started off as a silly game between boys, and thanks to some people getting suspended for planking on the job, it took off into an international viral craze.
Over 100 million dollars was raised for the ALS (and over 30 million raised for similar organizations) in the summer of 2014 with the Ice Bucket Challenge.
Not as famous as the others, Hot Mess Mom raised 10 grand in a week for Breast Cancer with herUnderboobpalooza where participants took a picture of a random item jammed into their under boob.

Viral Memes

So many memes (graphics) have gone viral to a point where we recognize them as characters just as famous as Mickey Mouse, but they have a purpose for them. Some of my personal favorites include…
Cereal Guy wants you to shut up while he’s talking because he has important things to say (and TV shows to mock).
Willy Wonka can be pretty condescending now a days thanks to Reddit.
T-Rex’s short arms makes it impossible to do things like pushups, clap, and masturbate. Like many memes, Reddit and Tumblr brought an old 1980’s Far Side cartoon redo to fame.

Basic Components of Viral Content

Most viral videos share some basic components. Many things has these components that didn’t go viral; however, the viral things also had these things. I don’t think you can have the community structure ideal for virality and it go far without these things.


Viral Marketing is when a company purposely intends for their advertising campaign to go viral on the internet, so they make it incredibly share worthy customized for internet preferences and then market their marketing. Some viral content goes viral by sheer stroke of luck without any planning; however, all the “lucky” things that did happen to them could have been planned.
Gangnum Style was premeditated (handpicking celebrities, sending out Press Releases…). The Holderness Family wanted their video to be seen, but they didn’t intend for it to go as seen as it did.

A Community Base

Starting off with a large community base is a huge chunk of the work to getting content viral. Not all viral memes were introduced to thousands almost millions of a fan base; however, the ones that made the most global fame were.
Gangnum Style was first introduced to the Korean Fan Base and stayed in that community for the most part for the first month of its existence. Most of its shares in the beginning were from organic traffic and word of mouth.
The label behind Gangnam, YG Entertainment, had a plan long before the video went live. They knew they wanted to break into new markets and started building a platform they would be able to push content out on. Looking at their various YouTube channels they had 2.5 million subscribers pre-Gangnam and had achieved in the region of 1.6 billion views of musicians’ videos across those channels. Having these subscribers is key and meant they could get a high number of views in a short space of time helping them quickly gain shares and get featured in YouTube’s daily chart. From Social Media Today
College Humor has branded itself as a viral video making machine and has since grown a huge fan base to introduce videos, and the ones that gain a lot of popularity generally hit virality.
Most of your memes like Cereal Guy were made to fame via Reddit because of its large reading base.

Emotional Content

Content with high arousal emotions get shared more than something that doesn’t invoke an emotion, andSocial Triggers state that the content-contagious, high-arousal emotions include  Awe, Anger, Anxiety, Fear, Joy, Lust and Surprise.
The Holderness Family who made #XMAS Jammies brought up the importance of telling a good story in the content on their Visit the Greenroom’s blog. The root of any viral concept stems from a great story. Good content tells a story and makes the viewer feel something, whether humor or heartwarming.
In marketing, they tell you that logic can be argued, but emotions cannot. Nike did it best with Just Do It. It has a strong emotional appeal that inspires their target market well, a theme song for their target market of athletes, but it also appeals to non-athletes. You can’t argue it. Even better than being against it, you want to be it. You want to be the winner of the race all of the sudden because Just Do It.

No Niche

They tell you that Niche is almost necessary for things like blogging; however, viral content speaks to a diverse range of audience. It won’t leave the Niche Community if it’s too niche. In order for something to hit the mainstream, it has to be mainstream material. Again, think Nike’s Just Do It. It was perfect for their niche of athletes, but it was something that could resonate in nonathletes.
In a study I’ll reference again later, Tweets that appeal to multiple communities fared better than tweets that only stayed within a community.

What Makes Things Go Viral?

According to empirical evidence, the viral process is pretty simple. The meme is shared in a community. As that community shares the meme, it either stays within the community or spreads to others.

Community Setting

After researching various types of content, researchers are discovering the virality of anything is based less on actual content and more on the setting for the content. While the type of content matters, like it has to be the right content, it won’t do well unless in the right community setting.
There are two types of biological viruses we use to study social viral activity.
Simple Contagions: You can catch the virus via contact with One person only
Complex Contagions: Catching the virus requires at least 2 or more interactions with it.
Most studies consider viral material to be complex contagions, meaning you have to see it 3 or 4 times before you share it. According to Psyc Central“Researchers discovered that it takes a minority of just five per cent to influence a crowd’s direction – and that the other 95 per cent follow without realizing it.”
While all that is true in content sharing (especially within your community), viral activity behaves different than that. One study showed that on Twitter, viral tweets spread like simple contagions rather than complex ones. Meaning, the things that go viral are loved by members of multiple communities the first time they see it.
So, ideally, you want to make sure the community base you introduce content to has access to other community bases.

Media Coverage and Celebrities

The reason why virality seems to be more of a stroke of luck is because the people deciding what to write about on major media outlets and celebrities are the biggest component from taking a popular piece of content and making it viral. These influencers can take something with a million hits and turn it into something with 30 million hits.
Gangnum Style, according to Social Media Today, started off by choosing popular South Korean celebrities to be in the video in the first place (making it a media sensation in Korea at the very least), and they did this to attract media attention. Gawker and Billboard wrote about it giving it a good start in other places of the world. Then Celebrity tweets, Mashable and Time followed. Then the video of Psy hanging out with Scooter Braun received media and fan attention, and the video really hit global virality when Braun reached into his bag of tricks to get Psy more recognition leading to the biggest spike in the campaign. Braun then got Psy on shows like MTV Awards, Ellen, and NBC’s Today Show.
Most of the more famous bloggers I know were on TV or radio. As a result of the media coverage, their fan base spiked in rapid growth for a short time.

Memes on Reddit

You don’t see too many major media outlets posting memes like cereal guy; however, these memes were often first shared on Reddit, and due to a high Up Votes, were more visible on Reddit making it spread like an actual virus.
Things to note about Reddit: Blog posts don’t fare as well as graphics on Reddit. Creating your own comic book character fares better than making a meme with characters that already exists as a meme when it comes to virality.

How to Aim for Viral

Use your most Popular Content

For something to be viral, it has to already be viral for most of your audience. This is why people are most apt to comment on a blog post if there are already comments on your blog post.
They tell you on Facebook to pay to boost the most popular posts because we safely assume percentages: If 50% of your fan base likes a picture and 10% of your fan base likes the status post, your best bet is to advertise the picture in order to closer obtain 50% of Facebook’s market instead of 10%.
We can learn from that. The content that’s most popular within your fan base has the best probability to make it in other communities.
Hot Mess Mom’s Underboobpalooza started because she posted something about her underboob for silliness, and everyone within her community loved it. People started sharing their pictures of their underboob holding random objects. She took the popularity of that and ran with it. She decided to use it for good and raise money for a charity.

Get Your Content Out There

Trying to submit content EVERYWHERE is really time consuming. In addition, if you are lucky enough to have a contact for a major media channel, you don’t want to abuse favors (save that for your most popular and most important work).
Instead, create a target market. Ask yourself, “Who would like this? Who would find this funny?” Define that who. Male or female? How old? What part of the world? And target that demographic. This is really basic marketing.
Also keep in mind your target market for your brand. Whatever product you are trying to sell, whether it be t-shirts or blog following, you want to reach people who are going to subscribe, purchase, or any call to action for your main mission.
In addition, the content should match the media outlet. What does well on Facebook doesn’t always fare so well on Pinterest.

Content Bros gives a wonderful list of places to submit your work to gain traffic.

After you post a blog post, use these to get in as many brains as possible. Stick to things that relate to your purpose (such as Reddit for memes and Pinterest for How To) and target market.
  • Submit to Digg
  • Submit to Reddit
  • Submit to StumbleUpon
  • Post on Forums in niche
  • Submit to Delicious
  • Post to Twitter
  • Post to Facebook
  • Post to Myspace. Myspace is dead, long live Myspace.
  • Post to Google +
  • Post to YouTube (if applicable)
  • Submit to Technorati
  • Post to Pinterest (if applicable)
  • Post to LinkedIn
  • Provide SEO keywords for images
  • Directory submissions
  • RSS directory submits
  • Forum comments
  • Relevant blog comments
  • Social bookmarking
  • Refer to posts on Yahoo! Answers
  • Refer to posts on LinkedIn
  • Refer to posts on Quora
  • Press releases
  • Link to our own past AND future blog posts
  • Add to your email signature
  • Add to your signature in forums
  • Add to your next newsletter
  • Request other bloggers to mention your post
In addition, if you can find a story with it, pitch that to major media outlets on a Press Release. Aim for an interesting, emotional story as opposed to informational. It’s great your book is out, but unless you are releasing the next Harry Potter, nobody really cares; however, pitching that a local author just got published to the local newspaper is something worthy of pursuing because there is now an emotional component, someone from town just did something awesome!

Consider Timing and Repeat

It’s quite obvious that Christmas related things should be shared sometime before Christmas, but the less obvious things also have a timing. Consider what you are trying to promote, and think, “When’s the best time of year to share this?” All things love related is best in Spring. Playful is best for summer. 
Content reactions to TV shows are best shared right after the show is over. If they make a movie or publish a book, share again.
Sometimes something doesn’t pick up until years after it’s made. Keep trying to promote old content when you feel the timing might be good for it.
Now I know what you are asking… Where did you get this information? Well I’ll tell you… Some of the sources where I gained this knowledge include, but are not limited to due to my memory…


Twitter Study Links

Basic Viral Posts



Herd Mentality

Wikipedia on Conformity

Go Ahead and Pin This

Blogging | Go Viral | Internet Marketing

Blogging | Go Viral | Internet Marketing