The Anatomy of a Viral Campaign

The fastest way to tell if your marketing guy knows what he is doing is by asking him if he can make something ‘Go Viral’. If he says ‘Yes’ with certainty and immediately does not mention exactly the steps and mechanics behind the vitality, ask him to leave. One of the largest myths about the term ‘viral’ is that it happens by chance. The truth about vitality is that it is engineered. There are a series of mechanics which give a piece of content the chance of becoming viral. I took the liberty of listing a few.

Viral, The Equation

To begin to understand vitality, we first need to know the definition. Since viral growth is exponential by definition, we need to begin by finding ‘K’, also known as ‘The viral coefficient’. The final equation goes a little something like this, K = I (people reached) * X (.% of people converted). If K > 1, your campaign is viral.

K Mechanics

Lets face it, even if you are a K-pop sensation, you are going to need some programatic help to get your K above sea level (1). Most of the time, this is done through hundreds of UI design iterations, share feature simplifying, embeddable content and calls to action. The effortlessness of this step will greatly determine your K value. Make sure you can get the user to share your content with zero friction to increase your effectiveness.

Distribution (i)

This piece is the most over-looked part of viral content. Distributing content to a targeted audience (preferably a community) will better your chance of raising your share rates and making this exercise easier by orders of magnitude. If you are stuck advertising the content without organic reach, you will be at the whim of network algorithms. This step is usually done through email lists, subscriber bases, social user pools and the good will of friends.

Optimized Growth

You can’t just expect to get this right the first time, and even if your K > 1 from the beginning, you should optimize until the viral coefficient is as high as possible to accelerate the effects. Try different call to actions, optimize share features, simplify conversion flows, control distribution of content, and even change the product if you have a chance. JUST DON’T STAY STAGNANT. The worst thing you can do is nothing.

Don’t Mess It Up!

Some products aren’t ready to scale at the rate they want to and most don’t realize this until it’s too late. Take Voat for example. When Reddit took steps to censor their own community, thousands of users flocked to Voat, but they weren’t ready. Voat suffered MONTHS of server outages due to the influx of users involuntarily DDOS’d their site, and they lost their chance to capitalize on their success.

One Last Tip

Once a viral campaign is launched, it is extremely hard to stop or slow down. Make sure you prepare your product thoroughly before you launch the campaign, because you won’t have a second chance to launch the campaign or distribute it effectively through organic sources. You’ve only got one shot, and even Eminem can’t save you from failure.


3 comments: On The Anatomy of a Viral Campaign

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