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How to Make Sure You Get Viral Content

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Hitting ‘publish’ doesn’t get content seen. To get the clicks and engagement – to get viral content, brands need to be creative, daring and most of all multi-channel savvy.

The holy grail of content distribution is for a campaign to go viral. Following the success of projects such as the ice bucket challenge, content virality is what every boardroom expects its marketing department to deliver. The charity responsible for the ice bucket challenge, the ALS Association, engaged 670 influencers – to include actors, celebrities and musicians – and prompted in excess of 17 million user-generated videos on YouTube that were watched by 440 million people, more than 10 billion times. Looking at the numbers, you start to grasp what an intimidating KPI ‘going viral’ really is.

Achieving exponential brand engagement is possible with the right tools. While it isn’t a formulaic process, by ensuring a strategy is in place that manages the process, content and budget from concept to distribution and beyond, you’ll give your content the support to grow, expand and spread. So, what should your strategy contain for viral success?

The brand who dares, wins

If you are looking for something to truly go viral in the way the ice bucket challenge, or the no make-up selfie did then there are some key components to give the content a kick. These include having an element of ‘daring’ to the content so it tugs at our more mischievous sides; playing on a strong ‘emotion’ is key. Whether it’s playing to our naughty side or making us feel sad, it has to have a strong emotional hook to catch-on – enough to cut through the day-to-day emotions we experience in our own lives. Storytelling for success Everyone loves stories. We tell them multiple times a day, whether in a few sentences to a co-worker creating a narrative and picture of how we spent our weekend or when putting a snippet on Facebook, or snapchat. Think about it. How many of your friend’s stories have you then passed on to your wife, husband, kids or other friends? The same theory applies when creating content. Make sure it has a story at its heart and then make sure others can be part of that story by creating their own micro stories.

Plan multi-channel touchpoints

Viral campaigns are strong cross channel. Imagine your campaign as family tree; the branches include social, SEO, eCRM, newsletters, digital magazines and PR outreach strategy, plus third-party content from influencers and brand ambassadors. How does the campaign marry the channels together? If you can see the journey from channel to channel, it’s likely the user will have a similarly seamless experience. Plan campaign touchpoints to keep the consumer engaged however they discover your content.

Paid social spend

Remember that not all content needs to have lots of money behind it, so don’t be fooled by the illusion you have to spend thousands or tens of thousands of pounds to get content virality. Yes, you need to give some content a paid boost to help it take off organically, but don’t fall into the trap of relying on paid spend to get your content to go viral.


1: Don’t have unrealistic expectations about a viral. A guide to buying car insurance is not going to go viral. So if it’s a viral you are really after, get creative.

2: Don’t get bogged down in thinking a viral is the only determinant of success. A consistent content programme can often deliver more value than a one-off viral campaign.

3: All content should have a purpose. Whether to educate, inspire, motivate, or entertain or indeed other purposes, all brand content should only be produced if there is a reason for its existence in relation to your brand.

4: Distribution: All content needs a distribution plan. After natural distribution, Seo and natural search, content should be distributed through other channels.

Consider: a digital magazine/newsletter, brand ambassadors, influencers, the existing brand community, PR, skippables and other paid approaches.

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Sharon Flaherty

Hi, I’m Sharon the Managing Director of BrandContent. Day-to-day I oversee client satisfaction and carry out strategic client work. I work on both established financial services brands as well as challengers and love working on both. In a previous life, I was a journalist at the Financial Times and worked in-house for brands including the MoneySuperMarket Group and leading their Content, PR and Social divisions.

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