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Ice Bucket Challenge: What makes content ‘go viral’?

We’ve all seen videos “go viral” – clips that seem silly or pointless that gain so much traction they end up being a talking point on the morning news. Of all the thousands of videos online, what makes certain ones gain so much attention?

There isn’t a formula that can make a video go viral, but there are some qualities that a lot of viral videos share which may contribute to their success.

Common qualities of viral videos

Many people have speculated what makes videos go viral, as can be in this post by Hubspot. And while it’s not an exact science, we’ve compiled our own list, based on what’s successful.

  • Short video, quick scenes, create immediate interest
  • Smart use of hashtags and tagging
  • Play on emotions: humor, love, etc.
  • Show something unique, creative, unexpected
  • Play off something already popular
  • Spontaneous, organic, or “real”
  • Informative
  • Interactivity
  • Controversy (less often the case)

While not every viral video has all of these qualities, most have a combination of these traits that encourage sharing and therefore make them gain “viral” status. The video above, “Charlie bit my finger” is short, funny, cute, and feels spontaneous or “real.”

Our Viral Video Award-winning trailer, Ticknado, adopted many viral qualities from the original #Sharknado, which may have contributed to its success.

The most obvious trait Ticknado exhibits is the play on something that is already popular. Since many internet users were already looking up “Sharknado” clips and trailers, and the Ticknado trailer was tagged with “#Sharknado” hashtag, it became just a click away for viewers who were already interested in that type of video.

Ticknado was also funny, informative, and creative, while using quick scenes to keep interest throughout the video. This made it something that people would want to share with their friends.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge’s viral qualities

Perhaps the biggest hit of 2014 is the Ice Bucket Challenge. If you haven’t heard of it, which seems unlikely if you spend any time at all on Facebook, this challenge asks people to dump a bucket of ice water over their heads or donate $100 to foundations that research ALS (a degenerative nerve disease). You are then asked to nominate your friends to do the same.

Pete Frates, shown participating in the Ice Bucket challenge in the Vine above, suffers from ALS himself, and is the one who encouraged those who took the challenge to focus on this particular disease.

While this isn’t an example of one video that has gone viral, but rather a movement, this challenge is a prime example of harnessing the power of social media to gain awareness and, this case, raise money for research.

Inc.com broke down the reasons for this campaign’s success as a social media campaign rather thoroughly, but it can also be examined through looking at the qualities of viral videos.

Viral quality: Emotional response

The most important driving factor in this challenge going viral may be the emotional response to the videos. Individually, it is quite funny to see your friends doused in ice water, while collectively, people feel inspired to take part and help promote a good cause.

Everyone from celebrities like Justin Timberlake to your grandma to my 19-month-old daughter (see end of clip above) have taken part – encouraging many to want to get in on the action.

Viral quality: Interactivity

This challenge is built to grow exponentially. When one person is nominated, they nominate a handful of others, who nominate a handful of their friends – all the while, tagging each other and using helpful hashtags, like #StrikeOutALS and #IceBucketChallenge.

On top of that, being called out publicly and being given a 24-hour deadline creates a sense of urgency to make people follow through with the challenge. Many forgo the bucket of ice and make a donation, and many have donated regardless of whether they dump water on their heads or not.

In fact, according to NBC news, The ALS Association has collected $1.35 million, when during the same time frame last summer, they received $22,000. That’s more than 60 times more money for research.

Viral quality: Controversy

Perhaps surprisingly, this viral campaign has elicited some controversy. While many have been anxiously awaiting their nomination to take part, or even nominating themselves, there have been plenty of naysayers who criticize those who take part as not actually taking action against the disease but rather just want to publicly say they did something good and nominate their friends. Others criticize being so public about donating to charity.

Even this negativity toward the movement, however, has increased those talking about the challenge and ALS, looking up articles, and discussing the ethics behind what you should do or not do publicly online. Some controversy can, in fact, propel a viral phenomenon.

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Have you done the Ice Bucket Challenge? What parts of this campaign might work for creating your own viral video or movement? Let us know what you think in the comments.

 

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Content and Social Media Marketing Webinar

By Suzanne McDonald

If content “is the only marketing left,” as a quote from entrepreneur Seth Godin goes, than businesses better make sure their content is attracting customers.

 

In a webinar by Smart Insights and Bright TALK, “Content and Social Media Marketing,” businesses can learn how to use content for marketing – and what to avoid so content doesn’t harm the brand’s image.

 

What exactly is content marketing? It’s “a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined target audience,” content marketing authors Joe Pulizzi and Newt Barrett said in their 2009 book, “Get Content, Get Customers.”

 

Content marketing “barely registered as a concept” until a few years ago, according to Google search trends for the topic, as cited in the webinar. Not until early 2011 did searches for “content marketing” finally start to rise – and then they soared.

 

Common content formats:

  •  Facebook
  • Twitter
  • emails to subscriber base
  • A Wiki page
  • blog post
  • LinkedIn
  • press release
  • banner ads

 

Those are the most common formats, and they fall into four “quandrants,” or general styles:

  1. Entertain (example: quizzes or branded videos)
  2. Inspire (celebrity endorsements or community forums)
  3. Convince (case studies or interactive demonstrations)
  4. Educate (infographics or press relases)

 

A few formats fall in between, such as articles, which are on the line between entertain and educate, and ratings, which are between inspire and convince. Ideally, a business would find the right balance between the four quandrants, something that could be struck by having customer reviews or questionnaires.

 

The old saying “quality over quantity” applies to content marketing. If a business overloads its Twitter followers or Facebook fans with too many posts, they would, at minimum, lose effectiveness. At most, those followers and fans would unfollow or post negative remarks.

 

Interesting content is a top-three reason why people follow certain brands on social media, and there are trends to give hints on the best ways companies can utilize their content:

  •  3 in 4 marketers say compelling content is a factor in closing sales.
  •  70% prefer getting to know a company by reading articles rather than advertisements.
  • 60% feel more positive about a company after reading content on its website.

 

A tip to remember, as the webinar puts it: “If you talked to people the way advertising talked to people, they’d punch you in the face.” In other words, engage with customers instead of simply talking to them, and think like a publisher instead of an advertiser.

 

Travel review websites are a great example in the amount of influence they have, especially among younger people. Word-of-mouth marketing is the primary factor behind 20% to 50% of all purchasing decisions.

 

Other tips to consider:

  • Think of what your content will look like on mobile devices – or whether it will even work at all.
  • Most Facebook fans (83% in one study) do not see your posts because they don’t stay visible on newsfeeds for very long.
  • A high number of “likes” and comments on even a plain-text post will drive more reach, or influence, than another post that might seem more likely to attract buzz simply because it has a photo.

 

Facebook has an internal algorithm called EdgeRank that it uses to gauge a user’s influence. It is based on four factors:

  • Affinity, or your relationship with a brand; you are more likely to see a post if your friends engage with it.
  • Type of post. Simple status updates trump other content.
  • Time. The older a post is, the less likely it will be viewed.
  • Level of negative feedback a post and brand receives.

 

Finally, some social media networks are more effective than others, depending on whether your communication is business-to-business or business-to-customer:

  • LinkedIn – the most effective for B2B, but far less so for B2C.
  • Blogs and Twitter have the best balance between both B2B and B2C.
  • Facebook is far more effective for B2C than B2B.
  • Others are far less effective for both methods, including Slideshare, Delicious, Scribd and Flickr.

If  you’d like to listen to the Webinar yourself, check out the BrightTalk Website!