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Viral does not always equal video

3 min read

Brands & Campaigns

There’s a whole lot of talk about how to create something viral.  In fact, we’re doing a free webinar on it with Guy Kawasaki, Andy Sernovitz, Stephanie Miller, Brendan Hart and Stacey Kane tomorrow (free to SmartBrief readers). However, it always seems that the viral discussion revolves around video. If you’re in the business of actually selling something, good luck positioning your product with Miss Teen South Carolina or the Dramatic Prairie Dog. Maybe it’s the alliteration, and maybe we can blame Susan Boyle, but viral doesn’t always have to be video.

So then what makes something viral? I don’t think the answer is as complicated as we make it. It’s not a video, an e-mail, a Web site equipped with “sharethis” or “addthis” buttons. All of those are valuable tools to get the goods in front of someone, but they are not the answer. Whether it’s a blog post, a video, a song, a coupon, a funny one-liner, or a special handshake — it’s simple: Viral is something worth sharing.

The other day, a friend IM’d me saying he found a new burger place in his adopted hometown of Providence. He knows I love a good burger, and sent me the link. Ready to pounce and tell him why it’s going to be inferior to the burger establishments I frequent, I clicked the link. Instantly, my cynicism disappeared and I found myself sending the link to the site to all my friends demanding a trip to Providence. If you visit Luxe Burger Bar’s homepage (and you’re not a vegetarian), you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.  All it took was a great picture of a fantastic-looking burger to start to evangelize. After our excited chat, my friend in Providence decided to expedite and visit that same afternoon for lunch. He asked for “the Web site burger” — and the guy at the registered laughed like he had heard that comment before. Turns out that burger is known as, “The Pepe” and comes loaded with pastrami, grilled onions, sautéed mushrooms, jalapenos, American and Cheddar cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomato and chipotle mayonnaise. Dios mio.

The funny thing is that this is currently ALL that’s on the Luxe Burger Bar Web site. No menu, reviews or other pictures. Just The Pepe, the number and the address.

So before you embark on equipping your site with the latest viral tools on the market, take a step back and think, “what about my product excites people?” The success of Will It Blend? was not because it was recorded and placed on YouTube. Before posting, they came up with the idea of throwing random objects in their blenders.

So maybe a product shot doesn’t make mouths water, and your product can’t turn an iPhone into dust, but chances are there’s something that resonates with your customer base. Ask your community to help identify that, study your site’s analytics. What is turning people on? Is it a product feature that is particularly attractive?  An impressive testimonial from a satisfied customer? Take those hints and run with them. The lesson is that you don’t create something viral — you enable an idea that probably already is.

I’ll be curious to hear what Guy, Andy and company have to say about what makes something viral. If you miss it, we’ll make sure to post the highlights. On … ahem .. YouTube.

Image credit, Entienou, via iStock