Monday, December 19, 2011

Social Media Viral Marketing Success – Not as Easy as Catching Virus

The recent song “Kolavari Di” is a great example of how something can be a hit through viral effect through social media. 1.4M YouTube views in 3 days - definitely a huge success which has made lot of people to take notice of this. While I was reading the numerous articles written on this song (with various perspective), I was thinking about what can make a campaign to go viral. With social media, it has become relatively easy to create a viral campaign because of the mere fact that people are already on Internet, ready to consume information and very eager to share it too.

Of course there is no thumb rule for this or there is nothing which can ‘guarantee’ a viral impact on social media. Yes, there are some basic factors which are ‘required’ for a viral campaign. Viral campaigns, on social media or otherwise, need a great detail of planning and flawless execution. While the platforms are free, lot of creativity and imagination is required.

When we talk about the basic factors, some things which come to my mind are:

#1 Emotional Connect: I have observed that many of such campaigns have a very strong emotional connect. Consider Airtel’s campaign of ‘Har Ek Friend Jaroori Hota Hai'. It has a very strong emotional connect for the youth (friends and friendship). Vodafone Zoo Zoo ads made a wonderful watch during Cricket season with everyday situations being shown very cutely.

#2 Incentivized Share or Pass Along: All the viral campaigns make it extremely easy to share or pass along and are incentivized for sharing. Sometimes the incentives are in the form of rewords, free gifts and many a times, the incentives are in the form of ‘style statements’, ‘I know this’, ‘I am the first one telling you about this’, ‘I started this’.

#3 Well-spread Awareness: The campaign can go viral only when at least the initial group of people hear about it and decide to spread it. So it is extremely important to spread the awareness of the campaign.  These could be through paid, planned or sometimes unpaid/ unplanned medias. Anythingforjetta was a very successful Twitter campaign run by Volkswagen which was beautifully spread with the use of traditional newspaper media (very much planned). ‘Kolavari di’ was talked about by celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan on Twitter (apparently not necessarily planned!). Hotmail is a another example where the information was passed on beautifully through a message ‘Get your free email at Hotmail’ at the end of every email message.

#4 Extremely Easy to Understand and More Importantly, Easier to Transmit: A message cannot be passed along unless it is easy to consume and even easier to transmit. It has to be super light. Remember the Macintosh campaign - “The computer for rest of us”? Very easy to understand, causally speak about and pass along without sounding unknowledgeable about it.

Again, there is never a guarantee that a campaign WILL go viral. So do cautiously evaluate someone who claims to offer you guaranteed result with viral campaigns. And definitely do not think of viral campaigns using the same old marketing rules. These are not about “How much you spend on marketing” and “to how many people you beg to for covering your news”. These are about telling stories and forming a connection with the audience. – and then letting them spread your story.