L&T President Jonathan Allen shares tips for marketers hoping to #BreakTheInternet.

It’s the question on every content creator’s mind: what makes something go viral? Love it or hate it, it’s important for marketers to understand how audiences will engage with and talk about their various content offerings.

L&T President Jonathan Allen recently spoke to the anxiety-ridden process of crafting a viral brand moment at the Innovation by Design Summit — a convergence of like-minded tech and business experts exploring the intersection of innovation and industry. Let’s take a look at the key insights and takeaways from his recent presentation:

Redefining “Viral”

Before falling into the vortex of views/traffic/shares, Allen suggests reframing your goals: “creating ‘viral content’ is hard to conceive, let alone execute,” he says. “Vitality is not about the numbers and metrics you hit, but rather how the message spreads.”

Marketers should consider how the format of each piece of content they produce will change as consumers move across sharing platforms. “Viral marketing tends to evolve in terms of media type, platform shared and message content,” says Allen. “A line of text can become an image that becomes a video which can become a meme as it evolves from a Tweet to a Facebook update, to a YouTube video, to a Tumblr GIF.”

Context is Key

Allen also encourages marketers to put less emphasis on the scale of virality. “This type of behavior can be exhibited in any community, regardless of size,” he says of content’s evolution as it’s shared across platforms. “That’s why the mode of sharing is more important to understand than the volume of sharing. I encourage the audience to consider the significant potential of a viral marketing strategy based on the size or type of audience.”

Content can still be considered “viral” within a niche market or community. It’s important for context and scale to inform your business goals — otherwise you might write off a successful campaign as a flop, simply because it didn’t rack up the same number of shares and likes as Beyonce’s latest surprise single.

Don’t be Afraid to Experiment

While some people may claim to have found a tried-and-true method of achieving viral success, the fact is, there’s no secret formula when it comes to creating a viral moment. There are certainly methods that can increase your odds — mostly having to do with the relatability and shareability of your content — but it may take some experimenting for your brand to find its sweet spot.

“The most important factor in executing a successful viral campaign is stamina and experimentation,” says Allen. “Marketers need stamina because virality can hit months later for random and unforeseen reasons — such as a news moment that suddenly makes an old campaign relevant, or an influencer discovering the piece and sharing it at a later stage in the cycle. And you need to have stamina just to experiment, because marketers need to try a lot of different stuff to see what resonates.”

That sweet spot might be using humor in B2B markets, or a more serious, sentiment-driven approach in consumer markets. The good thing about viral content strategies is that little is lost from a failed experiment but time and effort. If it’s not a huge success and doesn’t go viral, it’s unlikely to damage your brand. But beware bad content that does go viral because it’s so poorly executed — a topic for another day!

The Main Takeaways

When creating viral content, the first thing brands should do is analyze the sharing mechanisms of each social viewing platform and identify where their audience is most active, or especially engaged and talkative. Perhaps it’s not a specific platform, but a much-discussed topic that clearly resonates with your core demographic.

Once you’ve identified the subject matter and sharing habits of the group you want to reach, the next step is to simply experiment. Virality is a mysterious alchemy, and your audience will be quick to detect over-processed, heavy-handed attempts to break the internet. Be authentic to your brand, and try to have fun!

Longneck and Thunderfoot offer content marketing services and strategies to transform your company blog into an authoritative trade publication. Click to learn more about how to produce great content and prove ROI on your marketing efforts.

Author Adela Fine

After graduating from Wesleyan University with a BA in psychology, Adela ​joins L&T​ as the newest member of our​ social team. She has previously ​worked at startups in San Francisco and New York Cit​y, specializing​ in social media management and content generation. In her free time​,​ she enjoys exploring New York and is currently on a quest to find the best donut in all five boroughs.

More posts by Adela Fine

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