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The Biggest Misconception About Viral Marketing Is…

Virality refers to the rapid dissemination and popularization of a product or service through social media. But how do you crack virality…
The Biggest Misconception About Viral Marketing Is…

Virality refers to the rapid dissemination and popularization of a product or service through social media. But how do you crack virality? It is the mystery that seems never to unravel itself. We wanted to pull back the curtain on this highly sought-after concept. So, we turned to Matt Johnston, a social video pioneer who worked on this viral video for New York Magazine as well as branded campaigns for Toyota. He’s also founder of the eCommerce marketing agency Guide Social Global, specializing in creating paid ads for social media.

Matt told us businesses are thinking about virality all wrong. He says when it comes to brand marketing, “virality is not that important.” But, “it’s a nice bonus if you get it.” So, you don’t need to center your whole strategy around going viral because it’s simply a “vanity metric.” So, while it may lead to more popularity, it doesn’t lead to conversions. But, it’s crucial to prime your videos for viral success. “It’s like Poker. There’s always going to be a 30 to 40 percent chance involved,” he said. “But Poker is about 60 to 70 percent skill. Put your best cards out there and see what happens.”

Read on as we break down the components of a viral video. And if you do find instant fame, we explain how you can capitalize on it to increase sales for your business.

Why Virality Won’t Lead to More Sales

The main misconception businesses have about viral marketing is that it will make them money, says Matt.

When businesses say they want to go viral, their bottom line is making money and growing their business. “The first thing is how do we get more leads and sales? And chasing viral videos doesn’t exactly mean that you’re going to get more leads and sales. It’s awareness, but it’s not conversion,” he said.

So, the key is to create excellent content primed to go viral and then put money behind it. “When you use virality-focused stuff in ads, it just astronomically helps everything,” he said. Now, let’s dive into how you can set your marketing videos up for success.

How To Create Content Optimized To Go Viral

  1. Make social-first content

Seventy-five percent of all video plays are on mobile devices, according to eMarketer. So, you need to incorporate a hook that literally stops people on their Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter feeds. “People are going to ask themselves subconsciously when they’re scrolling through, what does this mean to me? Why should I care?” Matt said, and that’s why an eye-catching hook is paramount.

A traditional story structure goes from beginning, middle to end. But, “if you tell a story like that online in video format, you’re not priming it to go viral because it inherently saves the best for last,” Matt said. If you want to grab people’s attention, front-load your most compelling shots. And if you don’t have stand-out footage, experiment with click-worthy headlines. For example, Matt created a video ad for ChordBuddy, a guitar learning tool featured on Shark Tank. While he says the footage was not phenomenal, he primed the content for virality by writing a catchy headline: “This revolutionary device lets you play the guitar in seconds.” What’s more, most people watch videos on social media without sound, so make sure you optimize your content for silent viewing.

The overall paid social campaign for ChordBuddy went viral and propelled the company from two sales a day and $4,000 a month to $150,000 per month and a hundred sales a day, according to ChordBuddy Founder Travis Perry.

2. Generate Empathy

Viral content reaches thousands if not millions of views through shares, and people aren’t likely to share videos that they cannot identify with emotionally. “Empathy is the reason why anyone buys, clicks, or shares anything,” Matt said. Take, for example, Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” campaign that was viewed more than 114 million times less than a month after its launch in 2013, becoming the number one video ad of all time, according to this press release.

The ad explored how women view their own beauty in contrast to what others see. “Those videos were awesome and filled with empathy. They went super viral because they made us think about ourselves differently,” Matt said. “We wanted to share that with other people because we knew that others could benefit from seeing their own lives differently as well. So, it really has to do with emotional resonance more than anything else. “

3. Motivate a Response

Once you’ve evoked empathy, take it a step further by compelling people to take action. At the end of a video, for example, you can ask your audience to share it with others.

4. Overdeliver on Value

How can you create content that is original and stands out? You want to go beyond the cookie-cutter-type stories and add an “extra layer of value” for your audience. “As long as you’re over-delivering, you’ve done justice to your viewers, and that will compel them to share your video with their friends and followers on social media,” Matt said.

You’ve Gone Viral. Now What?

“Virality is like a flash in the pan,” Matt said. “They may not even know who you are if you create that content, so it’s up to you to follow up with them.”

This means building a community from the people who engaged with your content so they do not forget you. Another idea is to create an email list to connect with new audiences. In addition, you can target them in your future social media ads, getting them to click on your website and subscribe to your different channels. At the end of the day, “you don’t want to focus on getting more vanity metrics,” he said. “You want to focus on what actually moves the needle.”