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3 things most people don’t understand about viral marketing

2 min read

Digital Technology

There was no dearth of fascinating conversations Thursday between new and traditional media moguls at Business Insider’s IGNITION: Welcome to the Future of Media event speakers at the Time Warner building in New York City.

Amid back-to-back interviews and panels with the leaders of Foursquare, Living Social, Thrillist, Gawker Media, Hulu, Yahoo!, Bloomberg, Dow Jones, News Corp., Conde Nast and CBS was a 10-minute gem of a presentation by Jonah Peretti, co-founder of The Huffington Post and now CEO of BuzzFeed.

Peretti has advised aspiring politicians and brands such as Procter & Gamble and Sony Pictures on their viral strategies, so he knows a little something about what is going viral and how.

The takeaways from his snack-sized presentation strike me as universally useful for marketers:

  1. The biggest misconception about viral media is that quality is all that matters. Quality does not make your content popular! The best ideas do not always win. The quality of an idea and the way in which you spread it are equally important. You should spend an equal amount of time on the content as you do on the strategy for spreading it.
  2. When thinking about how to spread an idea, focus on the “Big 3” vehicles. Think through the viral principals of each channel. What kind of content will be attractive to what kind of people in what context?
  3. Keep in mind that a person’s behavior can change based on the platform they are using.
    • Google: People use Google when they need to find what they want when nobody’s looking. Consider that when you’re buying search terms.
    • Facebook: Viewed by your closest friends and family, Facebook is where you show your friends that you like something — often humorous items, a particular political stance, social cause or charity. People post things that make them “look like a good guy.” In this environment, give people “badges” they will want to wear.
    • Twitter: The Twitterverse is comparatively smaller, smarter, techier, savvier and more culturally hip. Structure your tweets accordingly.

The bottom line? It pays to think about which network is the right one to maximize your promotional opportunities. You can double the return on investment of your promotion by figuring out where content will work best and move it there.

For more on Jonah Peretti’s smart (and entertaining!) approach to virality, check out this video.

Image credit: 3DStock, via iStockPhoto