Going Viral: It’s All Relative

August 6,2015

15-FPM-0029-social-blog-post_08-05-15We’ve all heard it, we’ve all said it, and we have all probably wanted it: instant gratification, overnight popularity—our 15 minutes of fame. A term that was once used to describe the spread of disease is now being used in a variety of scenarios.

People-Driven (Organic)
For a story to go viral, it’s all about connection. What makes you share a story? Either you think it is funny, sad, intriguing or even disgusting; whatever feeling you have, you care enough to spread the word. This passionate connection is what turns ordinary into extraordinary and allows for ‘virality’ to take place. What’s interesting about people-driven viral campaigns, they’re usually all organic. No one paid to get the story out there, there’s no push to meet a bottom line; it’s all human interest. Take a look at these recent people-driven ‘viral’ stories; pretty sure you’ve already seen them:

  • Sweeper Babe: A 24-year-old street sweeper named Rita Mattos from Brazil took the Internet by storm. Why? Someone considered her a unicorn, categorizing her as too pretty to be in that line of work. She appeared to be a rare find in her natural habitat, she was special enough to save and share. Her photo continued to spread across a variety of social media networks and she soon gained tens of thousands of followers. She didn’t ask for it, it just happened.
  • Cecil The Lion: A localized incident that turned into a global fiasco. Despite the story spreading like wildfire across multiple continents, celebrities like Jimmy Kimmel began to get involved, animal rights groups were up in arms and people all around the world were mourning the loss of #CecilTheLion, so much so that the hashtag was shared more than 1.5 million times in 72 hours according to the Los Angeles Times.

Brand-Driven (Paid)
For a brand to go viral, it’s also all about connection, but more so, it’s also all about numbers. Video views, clicks, engagement, they all matter when it comes to ad performance and luckily with social media, it’s instantaneous to measure. Brands can know right away if their current campaign is going to sink or swim, or even go viral.

  • Chubbies: Known for their men’s shorts, they’ve seen recent success with their social videos, which some might call ‘shorts about shorts.’ YouTube used to be their platform of choice, but with Facebook’s video updates, a simple change to where they uploaded their videos made a world of difference. Videos that used to receive 300 views on YouTube now receive over 11,000 views on Facebook. Read more.
  • Like A Girl: A series of feminist-themed videos from P&G set out to empower girls and the rest of society to change the meaning of ‘like a girl.’ The most recent video, ‘Unstoppable’ was uploaded to YouTube about 3 weeks ago and already has over 30 million views and counting. The original installment struck gold after running during this year’s Super Bowl and now has close to 60 million views on YouTube. Despite millions of views making this campaign a success, their message is universal and connects with females and males all around the world.

What’s interesting to note is that not all brands, social networks, or ad campaigns are created equal. One million views on a video might mean success for one brand, but failure for another. Had ‘Like A Girl’ only received 11,000 views, there would probably not have been a second installment nor would they be the recipient of so many awards. Had Chubbies received over 60 million views on their social videos, well, they would probably be freaking out and scrambling to fill orders.

Know that there is no magical formula or button you can push to get something to ‘go viral.’ It’s all relative to you, your brand, and your audience. Whether you’re a person or a brand, know that the content you share has to strike a connection first before anything else can happen.


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Toni Teplitsky brings her left and right brain to work for the Strategy team, combining creativity and analytics in the world of social media and digital communications. When she isn’t Instagramming, tweeting or snapping, she is on her yoga mat finding a little Zen.

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