It’s no secret that viral content is a hot topic — and ongoing debate — in the marketing world. What content catches on and what doesn’t? Can a campaign go viral without major ad dollars supporting it? Is there a “formula” to increase reach?
While there’s no five-step process for creating a marketing campaign that catches like wildfire, there are a few things that brands of any size can do to increase the chances of their campaign achieving massive success:
Leverage “trend jacking”
Want people to talk about your campaign? Tie it back to something they’re already talking about. For example, the word “selfie” was mentioned 28.8 million times on Twitter last year, and it’s no surprise why. Give someone a camera, a mirror and near frictionless sharing with friends, and voila: You have a compelling experience that millions of people repeat every day. You also have the foundation for a successful user-generated photo campaign. When we wanted to expose SXSW attendees to our platform earlier this year, selfies were the answer. We created a campaign where participants simply had to upload their best “SxSelfies” to a website, then people voted for their favorites. By turning selfies into a social game, our hashtag reached 833,000 people and generated 1 million impressions – far exceeding our participation goal.
Think “and” not “or”
Once we wrapped SxSelfie, we used Google Analytics to see which devices people used to access the campaign. As we suspected, more than half of the people who visited the website did so through their phones. What surprised us, however, was that one-third of visitors used their desktop to access the site instead. Lesson learned: Had our campaign been mobile- or Web-only, we would have lost a good chunk of participants.
Eliminate participation barriers
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but the easier it is for someone to participate in a campaign, the more likely they will. If you want your campaign to go viral, tell people exactly what they need to do to join. Even better, give them the tools they need to do it. The Kind Campaign leveraged the 10th anniversary of “Mean Girls” earlier this year to launch an effort to end girl-against-girl bullying. To participate, people simply had to share a pre-created image with the campaign hashtag – both of which Kind Campaign provided. In one week, the hashtag was mentioned 10,000+ times on Instagram alone.
Fire up your fans’ passions
If you know people love their cats and dogs, why not create a campaign around them? That’s what we did with Calendars.com – and it worked. We asked participants to upload photos of their dogs and cats to a campaign website, and then asked community members to vote for their favorites. The top 13 photos in each category were then used in 2014 calendars. In six weeks, Calendars.com collected 1,400+ photos – 11 times the total amount they had captured in the past six years.
Make it count
Social media has changed the way brands manage social good campaigns. Suddenly, anyone can support a cause simply by tweeting, tagging or sharing a photo. So, adding an “online giving” aspect to social campaigns can help increase both participation and social reach. Earlier this year, we partnered with Boston’s Frost Ice Bar to raise money for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. The Frost Ice Bar hosted the “Froston Marathon” pub crawl, encouraging participants to take photos along the way to show their Boston spirit in support of the marathon. The contest simultaneously drove brand awareness for the Frost Ice Bar while raising funds for a fantastic cause. Sounds like a win-win, right?
Build in social sharing
Each of the campaigns we’ve mentioned so far has one more thing in common: They were also easily shareable. With Calendars.com, each photo was shared three times on average. As a result, 45 people viewed or voted on a photo for each one submitted and 360,000+ votes were ultimately cast, helping Calendars.com drive brand awareness. The same could be said for Froston Marathon: With each photo shared four times on average, social sharing drove more than half of participants to the campaign website and helped Frost Ice Bar add more emails to its database.
How have you increased virality of your social contests and campaigns? Let’s discuss in the comments.
Mike Svatek is the cofounder and CEO of Together – a mobile-first marketing campaigns platform.