Aren’t we all in search of the secret sauce to make things go viral? In a world where word of mouth, mouse and mobile can deliver free publicity and earned media, going viral is the Holy Grail.
And I think I’ve cracked the code.
It’ all about igniting the second wave of sharing. For sure the initial reach is important, as is the number of influencers within that reach. But unless the ingredients are there to get a second wave of sharing, it’s going to result in a brief flare, then flame out.
I’ve written about this before, suggesting that you need to think about the next person in line to see the content. It’s all about them. What will make them want to share it with their friends? And so on, and so on…
TNS recently partnered with Ogilvy and Twitter to study the patterns of sharing videos online. Here are their findings along with some of my own insights.
1. Target timely “right now” moments: This is particularly important as the predominant method of viewing and sharing videos gravitates to mobile. There’s a sense of immediacy and relevancy that a specific moment in time produces that results in people wanting to share, retweet or comment. Right here, right now moment are timely: things like sporting events or concerts taking place live, common experiences related to severe weather, cancelled flights, first day back at school, Thanksgiving etc. You get the idea. It’s when many people are sharing the same experience right at that same moment. Sharing into that atmosphere is very apt to provoke a second wave of sharing because people will want to comment and solicit a social interaction with their friends. The snow day commercial for Nike was brilliant, especially when produced and then launched in the middle of a nasty east coast snowstorm. People were cruising the internet on their phones while home from school and work. It became the perfect thing to share and comment on. Watch it HERE.
2. Engage emotion. Humour drives instant engagement, and often provokes sharing. But curiously the TNS study notes that humour alone may not sustain sharing. To provoke longevity, they found that going deeper was essential. Hope and pride were found to sustain conversation and sharing more so then humour on its own. Watch this Proctor and Gamble Thank-you Mom Olympic spot for Rio 2016 if you want a dose of emotion, hope and pride. It’s at over 22 million views. Watch it HERE.
3. Aim for comments, not just shares. Comments become contagious, and having some comments invites even more comments and engagement. We love to share our views – because it makes us look smart, funny and connected. We get lost in the conversations around material shared, especially if the video has provided context for a discussion of something relevant. The TNS study noted how UK retailer John Lewis’ Christmas commercial called “Man on the Moon” provoked discussions on how we treat the elderly in society, and how aging can be lonely for some. If you haven’t viewed that spot, pull out a tissue. Watch it HERE. It’s a topic that touches many boomers in society. People wanted to not only share but also comment. It hit over 24 million views within a week of launching in 2015.
4. Story telling is key. While a Hollywood movie has a couple hours to achieve the storyline arc of intro, hero versus villain, low point, overcoming the villain, climax and resolution, and the flushing out of emotions and details along the way, most videos shared online these days are between 30sec and several minutes long. We have shorter attention spans it would seem, and have been conditioned to consume online video in shorter segments. But the TNS research revealed that if strong storytelling elements and emotion were present, the length of the video was much less relevant. Think story arc, characters, and an emotional journey to increase second wave shares.
5. The notion of discovery. We all like to discover things. When we discover something that makes us look smart, funny, or connected to an inner circle, we want to share it. Think then how you discover content. It’s often by browsing and scrolling through social media feeds, as well as subscribing to content producers or curators. Obviously top tier influencers with large networks help people discover content too. Utilizing content hashtags within social platforms, as well as tagging for SEO to show in general search will boost discovery. If you can make a top 10 list with a blogger, or even better a top 10 list on Huffington Post, Buzzfeed or some other wide reaching online curator of content, it will increase the ability to be discovered exponentially.
6. Design for mobile viewing. Think about how we use mobile devices these days. Although we still call them phones, placing a call is a hopeless undervaluing of their abilities. Mobile devices are the tools for social and apps are the gateways to that social interaction. So, although there may well be some sharing from desktops and laptops, increasingly mobile is the device your video will be viewed on, and from which it will be shared. Therefore thinking from that perspective becomes key. How big is the file? How quickly will it load? Can it be understood without audio? (Many people watch video on mobile devices in public spaces with the video turned down or off) How will the content display on a small screen?
The most watched and shared videos usually achieve success through multiple rounds of sharing. The sustained conversations they inspire help push them past a tipping point. That’s the second wave, and secret to going viral.