There’s no doubt you’ve heard the term “viral” in relation to social media.

A piece of content going “viral” is the holy grail of marketing for small companies. Business owners dream of the day their post gets picked up by the world and positions them firmly in the social media limelight.

But how much do you really know about viral marketing?

Here is your quick guide to getting your head around the concept so you can approach it more strategically than simply “hoping” for the best.

Viral marketing

Viral marketing is when someone decides to share your content with one of their contacts via an electronic medium. In short: the internet. This can be by email or by social media.

People can retweet your original tweet, or share your blog post by forwarding it to a friend’s inbox.

Yes, viral can be as small scale as one friend sharing your blog post with just one other friend. Yet when people talk about “going viral”, they tend to imagine instances were a video gets thousands or even millions of shares and views.

Trying to get content to go viral is not an exact science. Sometimes, something just clicks with the general public. You hit a sweet spot and the content takes on a life of its own.

Bear in mind, posts can go viral for the wrong reasons as well as the right ones and land companies in hot water if the post was ill-advised.

Think like a marketer

You’ve probably seen lots of funny videos or cute animal posts go viral in your own network. While it’s not a bad thing for something that entertains people get shared with lots of internet users, as a business, you should think about the kind of content that would benefit you most if it went viral.

A cat going down a children’s slide or a post of your boss making an idiot of himself might get a few laughs, but will it bring in sales?
Viral content should be part of your wider marketing strategy. You have business goals and social media posts should be earning you money.
So what are the concepts today’s marketers are using to generate lots of positive engagement?

Where is your emotion?

Humans are emotional beings. All of us. Most people love a good laugh, and there are those of us who couldn’t stop crying watching Monty the Penguin.

As a marketer, you need to take some time to understand the psychology of your customers, what emotions they relate most to and what needs are most pressing to them right now.

Creating emotional content, whether it is provokes sadness, empathy, positivity or humour has the potential to get likes and shares.
Not only that, but you have to ask yourself if you would share this content on your page. Some pieces of content resonate with you, but you might not want to admit that to your friends, because it might affect how your friends perceive you.

If it’s something they will want to share with their friends, you are onto a winner.

Valuable content

As a business, your content should be the answer your potential customer is looking for. They may not know they have a problem they need an answer for, but using your super marketer powers of empathy (and research!) you will provide the answer to a problem they didn’t know they had.

Creating content they will appreciate at this stage in their life will get you the most return on investment.

It is necessary to provide great quality content that people perceive as valuable AND will see it as beneficial to friends and family.

Nothing is guaranteed

Most marketing is trial and error. There is no quick fix for a lack of engagement, and you can’t say to your employee: “I want you to create a campaign that’s going to go viral.”

Instead of thinking about making “viral” content, give yourself or your marketing team time to research your audience, experiment and to develop content that is relevant, valuable and enjoyable.

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