Going Viral: A Slow Defeat, Not a Quick Victory

Viral Marketing Dicussion at BlueGlassFL 2010

I arrived back in Arizona on Thursday after having spent the previous few days in Florida, attending BlueGlass FL 2010.  I got a number of good takeaways from the sessions that I was anticipating, but the session that really shook the boat was Viral Marketing.  All the speakers blew us away with simple, but priceless bits of information.

Starting the hour was Brian Chappell, Sr. Social Search Strategist at Ignite Social Media.  Brian made no bones about his philosophy of taking something viral.  While most emphasize the quality of content as the “king” of viral, he argues that the mechanisms and seeding techniques of that content are atop the royal hierarchy.  While the content must be top notch, the mechanisms and techniques that get it moving must be the appropriate driving force behind a good viral piece.  What’s a Ferrari without gas to make it go, or streets on which to drive? Exactly!

Mechanisms are the literal actions you are requiring of your public.  It can be forwarding an email, clicking a link, a facebook like, a retweet, a public leaderboard of participants, or use of an affiliate program.  These are the actions that spread the word.  Seeding techniques happen on two levels.  Initial seeding begins with the marketer, and includes tools such as a press release, a pay-per-click ad, a media buy, facebook and twitter updates on the company profiles, community and blogger outreach, or simply word of mouth.  Second level seeding is done by the audience.  This is achieved via their facebook and twitter updates, social shares on those platforms, their retweet, their blog posts, etc.  It’s these seeding techniques that make the content shine.

Next up was Chris Bennett from 97th Floor.  The heart of his presentation seemed to be the simplicity of viral content.  Even the most complex ideas and concepts can be portrayed in pictures and graphics in a simple, easy-to-understand fashion.  Politics, social debate and the stimulus package all have its place in viral America if it can be displayed in a fun, simple and even humorous manner.

Obama Stimulus Infographic by 97th Floor

Chris advised to stay away from your typical “Top 10” list (which is the reason why this piece isn’t entitled “5 Things I learned at BlueGlassFL”).  Make sure your pieces are visually pleasing.  If your piece flops, keep trying.  It will eventually spread.  Don’t sell out your brand.  Also, remember that the best pieces are always informative.

Amy Vernon, Director of Viral Marketing Strategies from the host agency, BlueGlass, rounded out the panel of speakers.  Her main theme centered on the community aspect.  No matter the social channel, you will inevitably be a member of some sort of community.  Amy reminded us to figure out what communities and circles would be the best fit for our brand.  Once you’ve narrowed that down, study that community, know your place within it, and be a good member.

Switching gears just a bit, Amy gave us a great example of transparent and effective tweeting.  @DKNY came heavily endorsed as a perfect mix of personal narrative, active engagement and minimal brand mention.  Naturally, all good characteristics of a good community member.  Remember that @DKNY is not a channel of corporate info or industry tidbits, but it is managed by DKNY’s PR girl, and listed on the front page of DonnaKaran.com.  There’s no holding back with her.  From earlier this morning: “The good thing about today is……wait thinking….thinking…..let me get back to you.”  A case of the Mondays perhaps?

These speakers really opened up my understanding of viral marketing.  When I thought of viral, I would think of Rainbow dude screaming in the middle of the wilderness, or the ad that’s going to get your 50,000 facebook likes in a couple days.  I thought of it as the quick strike that delivered the decisive blow.  The KO in Round 1.  Viral is so much more than that.  Maybe it’s the piece that leads to 25,000 facebook likes over 9 months, or the YouTube video that gets viewed 100,000 times in a year.  It also doesn’t need to infest every inbox in the country or be seen by every single stay-at-home mommy when it’s featured on the Ellen DeGeneres Show’s “Videos from the Web” segment.  If it can easily be understood, shared and appreciated, then it already has a head start.  It’s mostly likely the TKO in Round 9.  Or, as Brian reminded us: “Viruses only spread when they are easy to transmit.”  I guess it doesn’t take a doctor to understand that.


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