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What you need to know to go viral

What you need to know to go viral

August 02, 2012

Ever wonder why some videos go viral and others don't?

Better yet, want to know how to create a viral video ' or any viral idea ' that others WANT to share for you?

I'll show you how. And no, they don't involve cute little kittens, dancing babies, or Justin Bieber. Although those don't hurt either ;)

I'll show you how businesses are creating viral ideas (not just videos) to promote their brands and how you too can take advantage of social media and get others to share your story'

The secret to going viral summed up in one word

What's the secret? I can give it to you in one word: Memes.

A meme is a transferrable unit of cultural information. It's a symbol, idea or image that can be transferred from one mind to another through writing, speech, rituals -- and now, social media. Yawning and laughing are memes. Once one person does it, others naturally start imitating them. They become contagious. So are videos.

Spot the story ' harness the power

It's not simply about adding videos to your marketing mix. It's about communicating differently. The question is, how can you spot a meme and harness it too?

3 laws to take any idea viral

Here's how. Follow my laws of going viral, which we've developed after our own production and studying thousands of videos and evaluating why some take off and others don't. Based on our findings, we've discovered 3 laws for a video (or any idea) to go viral. Here they are:

Law #1: Curious
Law #2: Digestible
Law #3: Sharable

First, it must create enough curiosity or intrigue that will make someone want to take the time to find out more. Next, it must be so digestible that anyone can quickly understand and identify with it. And lastly, it must be sharable, meaning it must be something others want to share ' otherwise it will just sit in obscurity.

Think of a meme as a soccer ball. It's something you want to receive and it's something you want to pass along to someone else. The same is true with viral videos. You want to receive it and you want to share it.

In my travels in Israel meeting with business owners and heads of businesses and non-profits, hardly a day goes by without someone asking about how to create a viral video. The key is to find a meme ' an image, a story or an idea that invokes curiosity, is digestible and is sharable.

So what makes a compelling story compelling?

One of our clients, Gi Orman, did just that. Of course it helps that Gi owns a video studio named Big Productions, but the story he tells in one of my favorite videos is so powerful that I wanted to share it with you'

This very powerful video created by one of our clients, Gi Orman, is an excellent example of how to use the PASS formula when delivering your message.

Why is it so powerful? Why do people want to share it? Remember this phrase: PASS. It stands for:

Pain ' First, it shows the pain of how we can sometimes get so involved in our mobile devices that we ignore the people we love most who are right in front of us. Yes, it invokes some pain or tension within us.

Agitate ' Next, Gi does an amazing job of agitating the pain for viewers by demonstrating what will happen if we continue these habits and how the people we care about most become invisible to us. They disappear. I still get chills seeing the empty swing swaying back and forth as the father stares at his phone.

Story ' Then, without saying ONE word, the images tell a very powerful before and after story. He shows us the pain but also shows how much better things can be.

Solution ' Finally, he gives us hope by showing how to make a change simply by putting down the cell phone for a few minutes so we can connect with the people we care about most.

Use PASS in ALL your marketing and messaging, whether you're using words or images, or whether they're appearing offline or online. We've been using this same formula for years with clients and it's one of the most powerful things you can do to get people's attention.

How to get others to share

But there's something else that's important here too. Don't you feel compelled to share it?

Don't you find yourself saying, 'That's such a great message! I know someone else who would love to see that too!' That's the power of meme. Remember, I said a meme is something that you want to receive and you want to pass it along.

Why? Because you get something out of giving it to someone else. You get something out of receiving it, but it also makes you look good or feel good when you share it. There's a payoff. Here's one my daughter sent to me yesterday that I have to share'

Did you see the number of views? That video is being viewed on average 50,000 times a day! Yesterday it got 100,000 views! Why? Because it invokes curiosity (how can a group of guys make the sound of an entire ensemble with just one piano?). It's digestible (in just a few minutes you can see something you've never viewed before). And it's sharable (you can easily forward it to friends, post to Twitter or Facebook). Soon everyone is talking about it. What's their business? They tutor piano and cello. Needless to say, it has done miracles for their business and stature. The good news is you don't have to be super talented like them to go viral.

What's the REAL goal?

So is your goal just to go viral? Should you set out tomorrow to create a video that would be seen by millions of people?

Nope. Look, it's always good to try to hit a home run if you can, right? But it's better to hit a single or double than striking out while trying to hit one out of the park.

In other words, your goal should be about being persuasive enough in your niche market to make someone act and change their behavior.

Take the case of the Old Spice video commercials, says BJ Fogg, Ph.D., Director of Persuasive Technology at Stanford University and one Fortune's '10 New Gurus You Should Know.' The videos are very funny and they've certainly gone viral but there's no indication they've increased sales.

'Even if you reach a hundred people with the video, if that's your target audience and you change their behavior, then you've succeeded better than if you reach a million people and you don't change anybody's behavior with the video,' Fogg says in a recent interview.

Does it have to be perfect? No. In fact, videos often appear more credible if they're not as slick and polished as a multi-million dollar commercial. The key is to get your message out and get a hit. If it goes viral, great! If not, don't worry. It's more important that you try to persuade hundreds of people to do business with you than be seen by millions who do nothing.

Here are six killer questions to ask to create your viral video:

1. What meme (image, idea, slogan) can we use that will transfer from one person to another?
2. How can we create curiosity?
3. How can we make it simple and digestible?
4. How can we make it sharable?
5. How can we use the formula PASS?
6. What do we want people to do after they see the video? What action do we want them to take?

If you would like help making your business go VIRAL sign up for a FREE VIRAL LAUNCHER SESSION. We'll take you through the process.

Unlike most marketing, you don't control the conversation in social media. Until recently, you could control who saw your marketing and how it was presented to prospects. Your message takes on a life of its own in social media, which can also present HUGE opportunities.

Keep this in mind: What people are saying behind your back is much more important than what they say to your face. So give them something you WANT them to talk about in curious, digestible and sharable way and most likely they will!

Stay tuned because next week I'll show you how to use these same principles to take your ideas viral on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and get more people sharing your message.

Always taking you from where you are to where you want to go,


Jon Goldman, President