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Going viral: an achievable goal?

July 22, 2014
viral marketing

According to the RAE (Real Academia Española) the concept of ‘viral’ is defined as “from a virus or derived from a virus.” So what exactly is a virus? “A simple organism, made up ofproteins and nucleic acids, which is capable of self-reproducing at the heart of living cells.” This key characteristic, simultaneous reproduction, explains why the term has been carried over into the communication world; it has the ability to become something different to what it was originally and to spread quickly.

To ‘go viral’ is the goal that almost every brand seeks to achieve in today’s world. Not just because of the impact it creates but also because of the creativity involved in the process. It is impossible, or nearly impossible, to know with any real certainty what will go viral. Though nearly impossible to predict, having an inspired idea gets you that much closer to acquiring the seemingly unachievable goal. Those who are capable of captivating millions of people and of becoming influencers are also capable of not only suggesting but also telling us how to behave, what to do, and what to consume.

The importance of an innovative idea is unquestionable, but the audience must also identify with it. Even though on the surface we all seem very different, we all have common features that create a special union between us. Therefore, creating an experience that evokes feelings inside the observer is essential. After the first key step of understanding every aspect of the message that you want to transmit, it’s vital to identify the audience to whom you wish to direct the message. Because of the desire to reach a global audience, this localised thinking is often overlooked. Creating an idea that doesn’t reach the target audience is of little to no worth.

People generally prefer funny and optimistic content to dramatic content. Captivating an audience in this way is often far easier than doing so in a dramatic fashion, so messages with happy, energetic and optimistic themes should be shared. After all, who wants to share a message with their family and friends that’s going to make them sad? It’s not worth focusing on something that the audience won’t like.

The search for a connection with the public often leads the technical approach to focus on a more personal format, such as smartphone videos or hidden cameras. This is how the viral marketing movement began. The advertising sector recognised how videos that portray normal yet impactful day-to-day activities could be a success almost overnight.So the question must be asked: why put our efforts into creating impersonal and unrealistic spots when we can create something real that people can actually believe in? Reality and quality are not mutually exclusive. The only important thing is credibility.

One of the few things that we do understand about this phenomenon is that the platform we identify most with ‘going viral’ is video. Changes in the way in which we watch TV and online audio-visual content are the motors and the channels though which videos have gone viral. YouTube, which offers both easy access and diverse content, is in many ways responsible for this. Perhaps it’s for these reasons that the different themes and unique forms of viral videos always surprise us. Just as a homemade video of achild leaving the dentist´s office can go viral on a global scale, so too can watching two strangers kiss.

When material goes viral it opens up the possibility of having a conversation with a brand. What’s important is that it’s a two-way conversation: the public receives the message and then offers its opinion about it. The brand can look at this interaction and then modify its message with a greater understanding of public preferences.

“Going viral” is an achievable goal, but the uncertainty is so high that even when it’s reached there are no guarantees of being able to reproduce that same success. Many claim that it’s just luck. Nevertheless, a thorough analysis of the context paired with the correct tools and appropriate ideas will set you on the right path and help you to be in the right place at the right time. 

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