Monday, August 24, 2009

the 4 S's of viral

"A viral won't go viral just because it's a viral." I said this in a meeting the other day and as clumsily syntaxed as it is, I want to develop what I meant.

The client says: we want a viral.

The creative team: creates a viral.

But what IS a viral? And what makes something GO viral?

Let's find out.

"A viral is something worth sharing," says Rob Birgfeld on SmartBlogs.

Dominque Hind says there are 3 things to remember about a viral:
  • Must be a great idea
  • Viral doesn’t necessarily mean free
  • Nurture the campaign to get it out there.
And we learn from Karl Long that a viral isn't a strategy but a tactic within the more holistic term of co-creative marketing.

In the post from Karl, I especially like what he says about tactics, such as virals, building social equity with your brand. He described social equity in October 2007 as “built by aggregating, connecting, reflecting and amplifying all of the small user contributions over time so the whole is worth much more than the sum of its parts.”

You see, everything used to be about brand equity - where brands were one of the most valuable assets a company could have. But in the age of social media, we need different terms. And borrowing the term from Karl, social equity - where social networks are one of the most valuable assets a brand can have - is where we need to focus now. In creating social equity you need to take into consideration what starts a conversation and what begs to be shared - is it creativity? is it a thought? is it a point?

Anyway, back to viral. In this post, we learn that viral is a tactic used by brands to create Social equity. To do this, they need to
Simple - be birthed from an uncomplicated idea
Sharable - have all the necessary social media tools attached
Supported - be nurtured by various brand ambassadors - bloggers/influencers online, PR people at the agency, or synced up with traditional creative in an innovatively creative way
So next time someone says "let's do a viral," make sure you've got the 4 S's in place so that you're not just creating more digital crap to take up cyberspace.


Denise said...

Good fodder. Am I missing the 4th S?

erin said...

social equity, sharable, simple, supported

Paul McEnany said...

I think we should chat more about this. I've grown reluctant to use the word viral in general because it implies that 1) it's something that spreads by forcing itself upon others and 2) that it's something you do, not something that happens.

Or put better, I'd always lean towards not doing a viral or whatever, but making something good that we'll make use of in other places, too. If it happens to go viral, great, if it doesn't - well - at least we never forecasted those impressions.

Plus, most of the "virals" out there, like the RayBan stuff, reduce the brand to such a low level that it's of dubious effect.

Of course, then I saw this from WK today, and love what do I know...

Rob Mortimer said...

A viral is not a thing, it is what the thing does.

A pet hate of mine...!