It almost doesn’t matter which business you are in, you can leverage the power of viral marketing, if done right.
Unlike what most people think, most successful viral campaigns don’t happen by luck. As with anything else, putting some time into actually planning and thinking about your campaign, will dramatically increase the chances of it going viral.
How do things go viral, after all? I like the math behind virality, as David Skok calls it:
Viral Coefficient = Number of invites x The conversion rate
The minute you have Viral Coefficient that is above 1, your campaign will be self-sufficient, or in other words, viral.
As a data-driven person, here’s what I did to make the Viral Coefficient ~10 (!):
- Chose something that people are interested in
- Decide on 1 feeling that I want to provoke
- Building the landing page
- Optimising the 2 elements: Number of invites and The conversion rate
Choosing something that people are interested in
I found it best to stick with trends. You have a much higher chance to get people’s interest if your campaign is about something hot now, for example, the elections in the USA.
Spend some time checking out Google trends, and possibly Twitter, to be able to come up with something that you think people are interested in.
While doing so, keep the question in mind “What would people be eager to share?” as that’s all what matters.
I highly recommend reading Seth Godin’s free book, Unleashing the Ideavirus, if you want to know more about why people share stuff.
Deciding on one feeling that you want to provoke
People share when they feel too much excitement, fear, empathy, joy, anger, surprise, or other powerful feelings.
Remember Kony (2012)? One of the most viral campaigns in history, why did so many people share it?
One of the main reasons, was that the video provoked a feeling of Anger and Empathy, so it gave you the feeling that you just had to share it.
In my campaign, I focused on Surprise. Users entered the page expecting one thing, to be surprised with something totally unexpected. So surprised, that they had to share it.
Building the landing page
After deciding on the above, building the landing page should get much easier. But you have to always keep in mind:
How is every element on the page focused on provoking the feeling you chose?
Remember that we’re dealing with math here, so every element is important.
How are you monetising this?
You have to be careful with this. Usually, stronger monetisation means weaker Viral Coefficient. If you can find a way to monetise your campaign without damaging the VC, then go ahead. If not, you may want to wait, and not monetise your campaign until it’s already viral.
In my case, we preferred to wait until the campaign took off, then we added Ads to 50% of the traffic, and our own email opt-in Ad for the other half.
What can go wrong if it works?
The critical mistake that I did, was that I did not expect the campaign to go that viral. I had the website on a shared host (I know!), that was kind enough to suspend us because of the load we had put on the server due to the huge traffic.
You don’t want a rookie mistake like this to ruin your celebration. Make sure your server can take the load, or that you at least have the ability to scale it without getting the website down (which instantly kills virality).
Optimising Number of Invites and Conversion Rate
First of all, make sure you know how to track these. Tracking the average number of invites each visitor does can sometimes be impossible.
What’s easier to track, is the Conversion Rate. Using simple tools like Google Analytics, you can define a goal; which is clicking the share (or invite) button; and track the percentage of visitors that do it.
As with every effective optimisation, you first have to pay attention to the big rocks: The subject, the idea, and the message.
I had to change this at least 6-7 times until I noticed that something is catching on. When I noticed that a high percentage of people are actually sharing the content, I started optimising the smaller rocks, things like (sorted by impact):
- Call to Action (CTA) buttons: Changing the sharing button from “Share now!” to “Show your friends!” can dramatically increase your conversion rate.
- The header of the page (the logo and surrounding).
- Title, description, and thumbnail: You have to pay attention to how the post looks like when it’s shared on social networks.
With some creativity, research and planning, patience and analytics, everyone can leverage the power of viral marketing.
Even though viral campaigns may look like accidents, proper preparation and enough retries will get you there, guaranteed.
The rewards of viral marketing can be tremendous if you’re well-prepared for milking it.
If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments below. I’d be happy to help or discuss anything.
This is a guest contribution by Shadi Halloun, the Co-founder and CEO of Etools.io, which helps companies reaching and contacting websites more easily. Add or contact him on Linkedin.