One of VAN’s missions is to investigate how and why people share content online. We’ve created TubeRank to help marketers do this for themselves and always urge our clients to have shareability at the heart of their campaign. This idea of the ‘science of virality’ seemed to be one of the key themes at SXSW 2013, where a range of speakers and panels I saw discussed it from different perspectives. Here’s what some of the thought-leaders in the industry said on the topic at this year’s event:
- BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti, gave a talk on “The Big Power Shift in Media”. He advised that marketers wanting to go viral should aim their campaign at the “bored-at-work” network; those office workers who take the time to share online content regularly. If your idea is funny, thoughtful, cute, nostalgic or moving enough you can access a distribution network bigger than the BBC, CNN or any traditional broadcast media outlet. He stressed the importance of planning both the content and distribution strategy early on in a campaign, along with the potential benefits for those who get it right. BuzzFeed’s ongoing success as a creator and curator of viral content, and increasingly as a legitimate news source, is testament to this advice. Check out this video from Peretti which covers some of the same points.
- In their “Spreadable Media” panel, Sam Ford (Peppercomm), Joshua Green (Undercurrent) and Henry Jenkins (University of Southern California) encouraged people to think harder about why (not just how) people share content online. They eschewed the term ‘viral’ altogether. For them, the term implies a spontaneous and thoughtless process, and instead they focussed on the motives which drive a viewer’s decision to pass content to their social network. Allow viewers to put their own stamp on your campaign, make it remixable and personalisable and you can expect a much better return on bought media. See their book “Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture” for a more in-depth discussion of their model.
- CEO of the Cheezburger Network (one of Viral Ad Network’s publishing partners) Ben Huh put special importance on humour in viral content, encouraging marketers to use it as a tool when creating online video ads. Most importantly, he urged brands not to take themselves too seriously – people online will make fun of you whether you like it or not, if you’re prepared for this it’s easier to turn it to your advantage. Check out Ikea Singapore’s reaction to the horsemeat scandal for proof that this works.
To summarise my lessons in virality from SXSW 2013:
Consider your audience. Consider why people will want to share your content. Plan your distribution early on. Don’t take yourself too seriously. If in doubt, include a kitten.