A viral Facebook post is what digital marketers everywhere dream about at night. It is marketing gold, and better yet, it’s free.
Creating these elusive posts, however, can seem like the Mount Everest of content strategies.
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First, marketers need to realise there is no exact formula to viral posts. Like all good advertising and promotion, viral content takes a lot of creativity, good timing, and a bit of luck. The goal, then, is to examine the pieces of the most successful posts to understand what made them work (like Matthew Broderick’s Super Bowl commercial for Honda, in which he re-enacted Ferris Bueller’s Day Off).
As a brand, the question facing marketers is how to achieve this Holy Grail of digital in an organic, measurable fashion. To begin with, do a little research. Find out what is going viral now. Check out sites like StumbleUpon and Buzzfeed to see what is trending. For example, BuzzFeed creates a list of the top 20 viral posts of the week, with indicators that show the post’s reach.
This slideshow describes the creation of a good viral Facebook post with examples of how they have been done effectively.
Make sure you're sharing the media Facebook users actually want. Pandemic Labs found that marketers are mostly sharing text-based posts, but users like to share videos and photos:
Breathe life into the product or service by giving it character. In this interactive ad for Old Spice, Terry Crews plays music by flexing his muscles, It's just a deodorant, but P&G continues to find unique ways of giving it a personality. (At the end of the video, viewers can use their keyboards to make their own song using the Terry Crew's muscles.)
Use storytelling techniques, coupled with strong imagery that is relevant, beautiful, shocking, edgy, or unique to to create a world for your brand.
Here is an example of how Google, not usually associated with storytelling, used these techniques for the viral 'Dear Sophie' video that accumulated more than 7.7 million views. This touching ad tells the story of a father that, as he watches his daughter grow up, writes her emails along the way to capture each of the priceless moments.
Do something hysterical in an unexpected way and illustrate it with a compelling image or story. The ridiculous Kia Soul 2011 'Party Rock Anthem' ad, staring three human sized hamsters hip-hop dancing in the middle of an apocalyptic robot world, has brought in over 18.9 million views in the last year.
There is nothing wrong with creating a post that is a little uncomfortable, or even creepy; it is often the most effective way to grab the viewer's attention and compel them to share the post. The international version of this Evian ad, showcasing a team of creepy, roller skating CGI babies, went viral in 2010, with more than 58 million views.
An ad that taps into the emotional centre of a person, will likely go viral by powerfully informing, inspiring, or moving one to action. Watch this ad created for the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund, called 'Dear 16-Year-Old Me.' It's a five-minute long commercial that tells a series of powerful stories about melanoma. It had more than 1 million shares, and 7 million views.
Posts that can be safely viewed at work or in mixed company will likely go viral the quickest. Post go viral more quickly if you can share them with family and work colleagues.
Take Volkswagen's much loved commercial 'The Force,' an adorable spot featuring a young boy in a Darth Vader costume. The spot aired during the 2011 Superbowl, and has over 54 million views, partly due to the fact that it was safe for all audiences to view just about anywhere with an internet connection.
Audiences will immediately shut down if they feel like they are watching an ad. According to this article by the Harvard Review, the No.1 problem facing digital marketers, on their quest to go viral, is a pushy brand. This is not to say you should extract branding from the video entirely, just be more subtle.
This promo for TNT in Belgium, which got 37 million views, contains no branding at all -- until the very end.
No matter how finely tuned your post may be, you never know what the public will do with it once it goes viral. Check out this Facebook contest created by Walmart that quickly went viral after it was hijacked by David Thorpe and Jon Hendren of Something Awful whom started a campaign to exile a Walmart-sponsored singer to the most remote Walmart possible.
The campaign starring Energy Sheets spokesperson Pitbull, challenged each of Walmart's local stores to see which store could accumulate the highest number of Facebook fans on their store pages. The winner would then get a visit from Pitbull. Before anyone knew it, Pitbull was in Kodiak, Alaska, and Walmart had gone viral.
When it comes to video posts, the common wisdom is to keep it pithy and short. However, recent studies have argued that if you have a very strong story to tell accompanied by compelling imagery, longer videos can have high viral potential because audiences become invested in the story and outcome. Honda struck the perfect balance here with this spot announcing the launch of the new CRV. The ad reprises the much loved story of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, staring Matthew Broderick himself, and came in at 16.1 million views.
Bit.ly recommends posting between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., and NOT posting over the weekends. Links posted after 8:00 p.m. and before 8:00 a.m. on Facebook don't get the most clicks. In general, traffic fades after 4 p.m. and though things picks up at 9:00 a.m., it is best to wait until 11 a.m. to post.
The heat map here shows Facebook peak traffic times, indicated by the darker blocks near the centre of the map, and the lighter blocks represent less traffic. The data was gathered over a 24 hour period, which bit.ly calculated based on the number of clicks on links they posted.
Post your content on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, everywhere to drive traffic and make it as easy as possible for people to share. Samsung has mastered the art of integrating their viral campaigns for maximum impact. The latest ad to be released is this one staring James Franco posted to the company's Facebook page August 20th. While it is still building momentum, the video already has 3.2 million views.
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