Social Media Group SMWTO: It's Not Going Viral!


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This presentation addresses a popular, but misguided request in social media marketing: making a piece of content “go viral.” This session will cover why “viral” isn’t a useful term, what executives really mean when they ask for content to go viral, and how we can design content so that users are likely to spread it throughout their networks.

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  • I’m going to talk a little bit about a term I’m sure we’ve all heard and possibly used ourselves and demonstrate why we need to think about it in a different way.
  • “Let’s make this go viral.” We work in social media and we work with content marketing, so this is a request we hear a lot from clients. Most of the time it’s coming from a well-intentioned place. PHOTO CREDIT
  • But it’s not just clients - we also hear it from our peers and from the mainstream media. Sometimes it’s used “correctly” to describe a piece of content that’s been shared heavily through individuals’ networks, sometimes it’s not.
  • But even when it’s used correctly, this is stillthe wrong way of thinking about content marketing. Let’s talk about what’s wrong with the word viral, and how we should be talking about sharing content instead.
  • What’s wrong with saying viral? First, let’s think about what a virus is. Viruses are infective agents that self-multiply. They’re passed from person to person, almost always without intent. This is a pretty good metaphor for a computer virus, but a lousy metaphor for sharing content. PHOTO CREDIT
  • Why? Itmiscategorizes the strategy involved. That theres something we can do to assets to GUARNTEE they go viral or that there’s no strategy at all – it just happens.
  • It also discounts all the people who CHOOSE to share it. A piece of content doesn’t just move from person to person. I have agency. I can choose to send it or choose not to send it. I’ll send some things and not others.
  • Another problem with the term - It’s so vague.What does it really mean? What do they really want? The truth is different people use viral to mean different things. If you’re not aligned, how can you succeed? Here are some possibilities of what they might meanPHOTO CREDIT
  • Some just mean popular – it got a lot of views, a lot of hits, a lot of people saw it. This doesn’t mean it necessarily became popular virally.
  • Another quality associated with going viral is that it’s shareable – it’s easy to push through one’s social networks, it’s in a format that works for that/
  • Others use it to mean that they want something dynamic. Something for watercooler talk.
  • It’s not really about going viral it’s really about being Spreadable – something likely to be shared. Because it resonates with people. Henry Jenkins from USC talks about 4 qualities that make content likely to be spread and shared.
  • Because the brand represents the user or their community in some way
  • Because the brand’s content serves a social function that is of value(e.g., acts as a “gift” to a friend)
  • Because the content expresses their beliefs or feelings about the world
  • Because gauging responses to the content will help them determine who belongs or does not belong to their community1
  • Make it easy to share
  • It’s an outcome. An outcome that we can control. How?
  • Plan carefully – and think about spreading, not virality. It’s a more useful way of getting to the heart of that request. PHOTO CREDIT
  • So let’s stop saying viral all together. Let’s say what we mean – spreadable, dynamic, valuable content.
  • Social Media Group SMWTO: It's Not Going Viral!

    1. 1. IT’SNOTGOINGVIRAL!Presented by: Michelle McCudden • Feb 17, 2012
    2. 2. Let’smake thisgo viral! Image: Luis Argerich
    3. 3. Goodthing.Badterm. Image: Stefan Van Zoggel
    4. 4. Virus Image: Sanofi Pasteur
    5. 5. Strategy? Image: jericho1ne (Flickr)
    6. 6. Choice? Image: Trish Steel
    7. 7. Image: Melkir (Flickr)
    8. 8. Popular Image: Stefan Van Zoggel
    9. 9. Shareable Image: Stefan Van Zoggel
    10. 10. Dynamic Image: Stefan Van Zoggel
    11. 11. Spreadable Image: Stefan Van Zoggel
    12. 12. Does it represent me?
    13. 13. Does it have valueto my relationships?
    14. 14. Does it express my beliefs?
    15. 15. Does ithelp meunderstandthe groupI’m in?
    16. 16. Is it easy?
    17. 17. Viral is not astrategy.
    18. 18. Plan.Carefully. Image: Jez Nicholson
    19. 19. Every time yousay viral, God killsa kitten.
    20. 20. Thank you to ourSponsors and Partners