Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Urgent! Pass It On: Three Big Sexy Secrets About Going Viral

Myths about going viral are part of the regular fare offered by new marketing gurus. “You create great content, and show it to ten friends who show it to ten friends and pretty soon it goes viral and a million people are looking at it.” Too bad the real world doesn’t work this way. So, what are the true secrets?

It is no secret that viral math is sexy. In the idealized scenario of each friend showing ten friends your content  and every friend showing it in turn to ten unduplicated friends, over a a million people have viewed your content in only six iterations!

But in the real world, you don’t get 100 percent response to anything.  If only one in ten of your friends show your not-so-great content to ten of their friends who behave in the same fashion, only ten people are exposed in each iteration and it will take 100,000 iterations to hit 1 million views. If the response is less than one in ten, your viewing audience dwindles to fractions in a few iterations.

The first big secret of going viral is to show your content to more than ten friends – the more the better. If only two out of ten friends who see your content then pass it on but you start with 17,500 “friends,” you’ll match the idealized 100 percent pass-along scenario and get over 1 million views in only six iterations.

Getting picked up in mass media is the next best thing to having lots of friends and a lot cheaper than buying them. Your humble blogger observes that mass media has a big role in most cases of content going viral.  How to make that happen is a subject for another blog, but for a hint see the first big secret above.

The second big secret is to use the proven techniques of direct marketing and merchandizing in your great content to attract attention and encourage response (see the tacky headline above). There infinite degrees of subtlety in doing this but even clumsy (see the tacky headline above) execution tends to work better than ignoring the experience of generations of practitioners. Ask yourself how you came to this sentence, NOW.

The third big secret is that going viral isn’t all it is cracked up to be. Great content that moves minds and results in big-ticket BtoB sales is often best delivered in person to a live audience. Events hold attention and allow substantive communication. And events greatly increase the response to the content. Your humble blogger admits that this point may seem self-serving (because it is). But ask yourself, if this assertion is not the case, why are so many marketing gurus so eager for speaking gigs and why are so many purveyors of the latest marketing technology using events to tell their stories?

So if you see new utility in these old marketing ideas: reaching big numbers, employing proven direct marketing and merchandizing techniques, and using events – pass a link along to at least ten of your friends. And if you want to prove me wrong, pass a link to absolutely all your friends – if this blog goes viral without any mass media boost, your humble blogger will confess his errors in a future blog.

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