Viral Marketing 101 – Seeding Your Campaign

The following is a guest post from Christopher Angus.  Christopher runs Warlock Media, an SEO Company in Cotswolds, UK that delivers internet marketing campaigns to UK-based businesses and sectors.  If you want to guest post here, please read the guidelines.

Popular bloggers, smart companies and even media have designs on creating and then seeding viral content.  Seeding is part of the process – great content marketing itself is a myth.

Even the very best viral marketing or linkbait campaign content, whether it be a video, article or a game, will not do well without the right seeding.  This means putting your creation into the right mediums so that it gets picked up and distributed around the social web.  Personally, I’ve seen dozens of really high quality campaigns which deserved to go viral fail horribly.  This is because they did not get traction and therefore did not get seen by enough people to  gather momentum to continue spreading organically.

But before you think of seeding:  a viral campaign needs to have the right characteristics in order to spread effectively at all.  Not only do you need to give your campaign massive exposure at the start you also need to make sure that the  campaign follows the psychological appeal of web users.

The biggest question you need to ask yourself before you create your campaign is ‘why would people want to spread this?’  It needs to have the qualities necessary for success, such as:

  • Delivering humor
  • Giving someone an ego boast
  • Being incredibly useful (or resourceful)
  • Causing controversy
  • Playing on a meme
  • Being dramatic
  • Being provocative (but SFW)
  • Evoking a smile
  • Sparking emotional engagement of some sort

(View more reasons we share content)

It must have some sort of appeal so people will want to share it with their friends and colleagues.  A more general way to think of it is to consider the need ingrained in our DNA to build rapport with colleagues and friends.  The outcome people want from this rapport is  to raise their social status within a group. In other words: people, mostly unknowingly, share things they find on the internet to strengthen their relationships or to show others how credible they are.

Once you’ve created your easily spreadable, highly ego-appealing viral content, you then need to “seed” the campaign.  This is necessary so that it gets seen by enough (and the right type) of people for it to get enough inertia to then carry itself without help from push efforts and continue via word of mouth.

The most common ways for a marketing company to get a viral campaign started is to use existing communities as leverage.  If you have nurtured the right kind of digital community, they can provide a launching point for that sticky idea you’ve brainstormed.  After exposure, if the content resonates, that initial group can unknowingly cause it to be seen by tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of visitors, quite rapidly.

Just a few ideas to help seed a campaign, include:

  • Digg/Reddit/StumbleUpon/Delicious: If your viral marketing campaign goes popular on one of these sites it will get seen by thousands of people on the specific network alone.  In many cases, this can be enough to get your viral campaign started as these networks are made up of the “connectors” of the web.
  • Twitter: Having a person of authority tweet your campaign can have a snowball effect, so the story will propagate throughout Twitter and into other mediums on the internet.
  • Blogs: If you have relationships with a blogger of authority and they’ll mention your story, this will give your campaign another chance of success as you’re reaching directly into their community.
  • Advertising: potentially, if you don’t have a network already built, you can leverage advertising to help spark a campaign.
  • Social web power users: if you have connections with social media power users across any channels, by all means leverage them to help seed campaigns.

There are many paths to seed viral content, including emailing, Facebook, YouTube etc. Depending on the budget and the time available, you should be willing to try as many of them as possible.  If you can create a mix of tactics to help seed the campaign, you give it the highest propensity to spread.

Viral Marketing does almost follow a specific set of rules, and many have got the formula down cold.  Once you’ve figured the seeding thing out, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to consistently create white-hot social web content.

Of course, viral content itself is tactical and should logically fit into a larger digital marketing mix.  But not to downplay it:  buzz is quite potent and can quickly throw fuel on the fire of your digital marketing program.