Viral content is a video, article, picture or website that gets spread around via word of mouth or social media. Like a ‘virus’, it spreads from one person to another, normally fairly quickly. It was originally user-generated content that became viral, but now marketing managers are adopting this phrase to describe campaigns in which they attempt to create content that they know will be spread around by users. It is typically understood that viral content has to be quirky. While this is the case most of the time, viral content comes in all types of formats. Here are some examples.
Charlie Bit me
Uploaded in May of 2007, this video of Harry and Charlie, one biting the other, was filmed by their dad and uploaded amongst a multitude of other typical childhood memory style video clips. This 56 second video became a smash hit on YouTube and now has over 84 million views.
Miss Teen America
The complete meltdown of Miss South Carolina in attempting to answer a simple question regarding the American educational system was posted on Youtube and laughed at mercilessly by the world. It currently has 33 million views. The viral power of this clip was made popular with its ability to make almost anyone blush with embarrassment.
“101 Simple Meals” Article
This article gives out 101 recipes which will be ready in under 10 minutes. It was passed around the web frequently, and as a result has become widely known as a great example of viral content. As you can see, viral content does not have to be quirky.
It’s important to be very careful when handling viral content, as anything you upload to the internet could become viral, with potentially disastrous results.
As an example, a couple of years ago a video was uploaded to the internet of a student using a golf ball retriever to perform Star Wars moves. The video was titled “Star Wars Kid”, and it received attention from news networks, as well as millions of views on YouTube. The upload of the video resulted in a lawsuit, as the uploader did not have permission to do so. The student in question suffered years of name calling, and still does.
Viral Content as a marketing technique can be an easy way for companies to get their message out via word of mouth, without spending millions on traditional media. Many times, pure luck and good timing plays a big part in determining how far reaching a viral marketing campaign will spread.
In the event that an organization fails in producing something valuable enough to prove viral, they may consider purchasing the rights to an existing viral phenomenon and brand it as their own. This technique was used by Stride gum, when it capitalized on the now infamous travels of dancing Matt, who started traveling and dancing for his own entertainment but now does so as a testament to the long lasting nature of gum.