Picture the scene. An enthusiastic marketing exec is meticulously presenting their best-laid plans for the next quarter’s content strategy, outreach, influencer marketing, trendjacking insert more buzzwords here when a voice from the head of the table commands: “What I want, is one of them viral posts, you know, like John Lewis do at Christmas. Next social media post you send out, I want you to viralise it.” 

Cue nervous giggles and frantic Googling for a blog on “how to make content go viral”. Like this one, in fact. Truth is though, it takes a special kind of social media post to go from vapid to viral. Success isn’t guaranteed, a brand’s post can go viral for all the wrong reasons too, but when they work, boy, do they work. Here’s the lowdown on taking your content out of the slow lane and into the social media stratosphere:

Make your content stand for something 

2014’s Ice Bucket Challenge encouraged people to pour a bucket of ice and water over their head, to raise awareness of the disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The campaign combined an easily-achievable task, personal nominations and a low barrier to entry. The result? 2.4 million tagged videos on Facebook, over $115 million raised for the A.L.S. Association and the identification of a new gene through a funded research project. Show us how it’s done, Zuck.


Time to get happy

Anything that comes from a film about a friendly father figure, cute Pixar kids and scores of yellow minions is going to be put a smile on your face, right? Add Pharrell’s Happy, lots of British Muslims and what do you get? A spoof video garnering 2.3 million views and putting a lot of smiles on a whole lot of faces. Happy days.

Phones 4 U

Talking of dancing, anyone who’s travelled through London Liverpool Street at 11pm is in for a dubious treat. Fast forward to 11am on a weekday however and it’s a different story. T-Mobile’s flash-mob event was a masterclass in how to grab consumer (and commuter) attention. It had the shock factor, the human angle, and the party soundtrack to match. T-Mobile, the (award) phone’s ringing and it’s definitely for you.

Ed’s note: this campaign won T-Mobile the TV commercial of the year gong at the 2010 British Television Advertising Awards.


Talking of soundtracks

What’s the best way to educate young people on road safety? Say g’day to Melbourne’s Metro Trains public service announcement campaign, Dumb Ways To Die. 20 characters, a catchy tune and a big spoonful of cute was the campaign that put those boring educational videos on shelf forever – and led to a 30% reduction in “near-miss” accidents.


Summertime and the postin’ is easy

Sun’s out, guns out. As in the big gun of 2015 – #thedress. Was it white and gold, or black and blue? Potayto, potahto, this viral post got people questioning their eyesight the world over. Recipe for success: it became a water cooler moment (7.6 million Twitter mentions and counting), it appealed to a wide age-group and it was intriguing.

Special mention here to The Salvation Army for their thought-provoking response.


Let’s hear it for the hirsute

You know something’s gone viral when a calendar month gets a new moniker.  Step forward Movember, adored by Hackney hipsters and beyond, helping to raise awareness of men’s health issues.  1.5 million tweets last year alone, and over 800 international projects supported. Again, easy to be part of the gang, a bit of narcissism going on and a whole ‘nother level of my tache is better than your tache. Remember guys, grow a Mo, save a Bro.



Pure and simple

The #nomakeupselfie campaign pulled in a staggering £8 million for Cancer Research UK in the first six days, proving viral success has nothing to do glamour but everything to do with authenticity. Like Movember, it was easy to join, peer support ruled and to take part became a badge of honour.



The takeaways

Real viral success is rare. It isn’t going to happen for every brand or every post, but when it does – bingo. Step forward huge brand awareness, increased sales and positive brand sentiment.

The best viral campaigns touch an emotion in someone, and if the marketing team have made it easy to share/comment/like, your chances of increased organic reach just improved dramatically.

They’re funny. In the case of viral videos, humour is your friend. Check out the CEO of the Dollar Shave Club with his “Our Blades Are F***ing Great” by way of homework.

They provoke a reaction. Refer to black/blue/gold above.

They’re appropriate. They align with your brand’s voice.

They’re easy to become part of. They lend themselves to supplying a brand with lots of lovely User Generated Content aka social media gold dust.

They’re authentic – they show a brand’s heart and soul in a very, very real way.

If all of this sounds like something you fancy presenting at the next board meeting, let’s have a chat. We’d love to tell you all about our very own ‘break the internet’ moment with a client’s Nostalgia campaign. Organic reach of 26 million… but who’s counting? (Ed’s note: Oh, we are so counting).

How can we help?