How To Make Your Business A Viral Sensation

by · August 26, 201323 comments

Can you create “viral?” For a few years after the business demand to “make me a viral video,” became part of the marketing nomenclature between clients and agencies, many of us corrected the assumption. You — the company crafting the video — do not create virality. The audience’s reaction to the content is what makes something “go viral.” It can’t be manufactured.

But actually, it can.

No, I’m not talking about faking it to make it — the method B.J. Mendleson bemoans in his book Social Media is Bullshit. He aptly points out that many “viral” videos we look to as social media case studies were seeded with either celebrity endorsement, YouTube editorial staff placement or system gaming to produce X hundred thousand views using a pay-per-view service which pre-seeded the appearance of popularity, thus launching more organic interest.

I’m talking about you, the company, planning and building and editing and polishing to produce virality among your company, products or services. You can manufacture it.

But it’s not easy. Which means most marketers will either fail trying or not try at all.

Let’s distill the notion of pass-along value down to its core points.

Why do people share?

Think of why you would share a video. Now take that question larger and think of the reasons you would stop and tell a friend about a product or service. Here’s my list:

  • The product is good. It does what it promises to do and perhaps more. It solves the intended problem. Examples? Bose headphones. Skechers shoes. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Ford trucks. And yes, Maker’s Mark bourbon.
  • The product makes you feel good. It gives you an aspirational quality that makes you think other people think better of you. If you share it, it brings some light to the notion you’re an informed consumer and better friend. Examples? Beats by Dre headphones. Cole Hahn shoes. Häagen-Dazs ice cream. BMW cars. Laphroaig scotch.
  • The product is cheap. It performs exceptionally well when considering the value of the solution and the price paid. Examples? Panasonic headphones. New Balance tennis shoes. Baskin-Robbins ice cream. Kia cars. Evan Williams bourbon.
  • The service is outstanding. It stands out despite the product being average or easily obtainable elsewhere. Examples? Zappos online retail/shoes, Chick-Fil-A chicken, Southwest Airlines, Enterprise Rental Cars.
  • The marketing is outstanding. Yep — sometimes a product or service gets passed along because of its marketing first. Whether funny, insightful or just plain captivating, there’s something to getting the message across so good, the delivery is what you remember. Examples: Dollar Shave Club, Geico Insurance, Dove, Old Spice.

Now think about whether or not your product or service falls into one of those five categories. Probably not, right? That’s why you’re not viral.

But some of you are saying, “Jason?! Our product is good. Our service is outstanding. Our marketing is outstanding.” According to you. If you think so and you’re not viral, then the people you’re asking if they agree aren’t being honest with you. Or, alternatively, the product isn’t good enough, the service not outstanding enough to push that viral button.

So how do we make “viral?”

The simple answer is that you keep working at it. Is your product better than all of your competitor’s? If not, make it so. And make sure you’re using the opinion of independent, industry-aware audiences, not just your CEO’s. I can promise you 99.9% of all CEOs think their product is far better than their competition. And only about 10% of their customer base probably agrees.

Is your service outstanding? You may very well have 98% good or above on your customer service survey scores. But you need 99.9% outstanding or above. Get better. Or throw in the bells and whistles that take customer’s breath away: Free shipping, no question returns, a free kitten with every purchase, suckers for the kids and the like.

Is your marketing outstanding? Does it make people talk about the company, the industry or even the root problem your product solves? If not, challenge your marketing department and agencies to make it so. If you sell the best white board markers on the planet, then your marketing better damn well leave the audience of your marketing saying, “Damn. I never really thought the quality of my white board markers meant something!”

And yes, with advertising it’s okay to make them say that despite the fact it might be 100 percent, manufactured bullshit. Dollar Shave Club isn’t the only and, according to some, best low-cost alternative to razors on the planet. But when you watch their video, you think, “Damn! I have to join this club!”

As for the cheap and aspirational reasons, you have to decide which you are. And if you’re neither, focus on the other options. For aspirational brands, do well-to-do folks in your target demographic want your brand? Would they stand in line for it? Would they wear your logo on their shirt as a statement of pride and identity? If not, you’ve got some work to do. For the cheap, are you delivering the value your customers expect to pay more for? Are you able to overcome the perception you’re cheap because the stuff just works? Work on that angle.

Marketing isn’t hard, but it’s hard work

I’ve never thought marketing to be hard. Your job is to identify the most ideal audiences for your product or service and find ways to communicate to them how it solves a problem in their world. As Chris Heuer says, good marketing isn’t about selling, it’s about helping people buy. Identifying audiences, developing messages, delivering messages and reading/reacting to the process isn’t hard.

But at the end of the day, there is no Easy button. To market well, to produce virality, to make people so passionate about your product or service or brand, you have to work hard.

And when you do, magic happens.

Did you enjoy this blog post? If so, then why not:Leave Comment Below | Subscribe To This Blog | Sign Up For Our Newsletter |

About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

Other posts by

Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • Cision NA

    Problem Solving Product + Outstanding Customer Service + Amazing Marketing x Jason’s Advice = Virality :) Thank you for sharing, Jason! Enjoyed the step-by-step breakdown and challenges.

    Best,
    Lisa

  • Pam @ A New Organized Me

    This is a great article. There’s a lot that I need to incorporate into what I’m doing. Thanks!

  • http://www.newgen.ca/ Stevie Vu

    Thought provoking and a great read ! Will be sharing with others for sure.

  • offthewing`

    I feel you didnt give the information in your title.
    You baled. thanks.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      I disagree. If you we’re looking for the easy button on gaming the system, you came to the wrong blog.

  • http://www.softship.com/ Ava Cristi

    If you really want to be successful in business,you have to provide great service.If you provide better service for your customers,they’ll be more inclined to come to you the next time they need something instead of going to your competition.Thanks for sharing this article Jason!

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thank you, Ava.

  • Kerry O’Shea Gorgone

    A lot of people assume that “viral” happens overnight, but that’s only because new people become aware of it every day. I think your point’s well taken: hard work over a long period of time helps new people to discover your brand every day for years.

  • Adeel Vanthaliwala

    Can B2B go viral? B2C like dollarshave & hello flohave a huge potential audience – a required factor for virality. Should B2B even be worried about going viral given that their potential target market is tiny and not as tightly connected companred to B2C and therefore virality is harder to achieve.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Sure it can. Cisco and others do a nice job. And certainly every marketing software in the world is trying to do it. Content can be created that is insatiable, just as a product or service can be created that is. It only has to “go viral” within that target audience, though.

  • Paul Rakov

    Jason…I am a marketer. I don’t fall for such things as viral videos! Please. I am smarter than that. So, they can make them as good as you say they should and I still won’t fall for it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go to the mailbox to pick up my Dollar Shave Club delivery.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Well played, Mauer.

  • Gian

    Great read, thank you Guru Jason

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Guru may be a bit strong, but thank you! And you’re welcome.

  • Jasmine Sandler

    Brings me way back to Grad school and HBS case studies. The viral success formula doesn’t change imo, Viral is driven by enthusiasm – what we built social networks i.e. online communities in the spirit of – viral means authenticity, outstanding brand delviery and good ol business sense. Thank you, Jason. Now following your Tweets:) – Jasmine Sandler

  • Pingback: Viral Marketing for SMART Affiliates - Affiliate Success!

  • Pingback: Less or More? NOMAS mediaproducties

  • http://www.twoodo.com/ Andrea Francis

    Plenty to learn from this post, reminding of the phrase “it’s not what you do, it’s why you do it.” Psychology plays a much larger role in marketing than most realise. Nice work!

  • diernelson

    DhWA – Recently I used to be REALLY lacking in cash and debits were killing me from all sides!! That was Right Until I decided to earn money.. on the internet! I visited surveymoneymaker d-o-t net, and started doing surveys for money, and surely I’ve been far more able to get around financialy! i am happy, that i did this!! F0ZW

  • diernelson

    DhWA – Recently I used to be REALLY lacking in cash and debits were killing me from all sides!! That was Right Until I decided to earn money.. on the internet! I visited surveymoneymaker d-o-t net, and started doing surveys for money, and surely I’ve been far more able to get around financialy! i am happy, that i did this!! F0ZW

  • Kevin Potter

    Trick is to have a lot of people talking and sharing at the SAME time to create the initial interest and wave. Sponsored Tweets too expensive and in social media advertising, eg Twitter advertising, is still YOU broadcasting or community like TweetInto where low cost get social influencers to share your message. Key is others, not you, initiating the wave

  • James “Shoes” Walker

    Hi Jason, could you cite just 2 or 3 viral marketing success case studies you’ve worked on? Thanks!

  • George Jones

    http://wideo.co is an excellent tool to make a company presentation. It has some templates for reuse.