[guest post by Sam Williamson]

There doesn’t seem to be any rules, or any way to predict what will go viral – it just sort of happens. This is especially true nowadays, where the majority of content going viral tends to be completely amateur. Whether it’s an embarrassing Vine video or a funny Tweet, most viral content comes from everyday people who are transformed into Internet stars virtually overnight.

But don’t assume that you need to act like an amateur to have any success in this game. There are plenty of brands out there who are killing it with their viral marketing efforts, and they’re still managing to maintain professionalism in their campaigns. The easiest way to avoid a viral marketing flop is to stop trying to distance your brand from the content.

The only thing worse than a brand that doesn’t invest in viral marketing is a brand trying to replicate the organic nature of most modern viral content. Instead of trying to compete with these overnight superstars, embrace your branded viral content and follow these steps to ensure that you don’t end up on the receiving end of a backlash from the comments section of websites across the Internet:

Proper Goals

Far too many brands approach their viral marketing with little idea of what their ultimate goal is. It isn’t hard to get a ton of traffic to your site (ever used Reddit?) but getting relevant traffic to engage with your content and convert well is another matter entirely.

So before you’ve even started to think about the content, think about what action you want users to take when they land on your content. Sales, email signups, shares and links are all popular goals to aim for. If you manage to generate all of these through your viral content, you’re doing something right.

Proper Expectations

Before you start promising your boss all of the above from your viral marketing efforts, stop for a minute to reel in their expectations slightly. Generating even one of these metrics would be considered a success, so don’t feel too disappointed if your content doesn’t manage to tick all of the boxes.

The key to any viral marketing campaign is being realistic with your expectations. You might not get featured on the biggest news sites in the world, but if you can generate a good buzz around your content then you can consider your campaign a success.




Proper Audience Identification

One of the first things that every brand should do before undertaking a new viral marketing campaign is to carefully identify the exact audience that they want to target. There is no point in creating content that doesn’t have a clear target audience, or else you won’t know what to create and where to promote it. If the only audience that you’re creating content for is your customers then you might want to rethink your viral marketing strategy.

It might seem counter-productive, but often creating content for people who aren’t your customers can be beneficial. Many brands have realized that creating content for ‘amplifiers’ (i.e people with large followings online who will share your content) is often the best approach. Amplifiers can be a variety of different sources, including bloggers, social media influencers and even suppliers. Getting your content in the hands of amplifiers is the spark that leads to viral success.

Proper Content

The content that you produce will ultimately make or break your campaign, and if it’s totally irrelevant to the products or services that you provide then it is essentially worthless. A video of a cat licking ice cream and getting brain freeze might have worked wonders for the Italian restaurant near your office, but is it really right for your brand? Unless you’re serving homemade gelato or create products for cats at your business, the answer is probably no.

Don’t expect people watching a cat video to signup to an email list for your mattress company. Remember, often it’s the simplest content that has the most viral success. Just because you spent months producing the work, it doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to go viral.

** About the author: Sam Williamson writes for Aims Media Glasgow

Come back next week for Part II. In the meantime, leave us your comments here or on  Twitter @flow_reader!