How To Go Viral

Kyle Reed // @kylereed

Is it possibly to “go viral”? Yes.
Is it possibly to plan on going viral? Maybe.

Going viral (means becoming extremely popular in a very short amount of time) is a much desired thing but few can predict its ways. The power is great, you don’t have to look very far to realize that. Take Mr Bieber for example. He starts making youtube videos, people realize his talent and start requesting more. The link to the youtube video of Justin Bieber was shot in 2008. He was just a kid singing songs in his moms apartment. Now he is selling out Madison Square garden. He is the poster child (pun or no pun) of going viral.

The power is there, but how do you capture that power? Is it even possible? I think it is.

Let us look at a company that went viral and was strategic about it all.

Say hello to A virtual phone system for entrepreneurs. When launching their newest app they decided to do something that most set out to do, set the internets a blazing with talk about your product. Check out their strategy below:

That is right, they took a popular song, changed some wording, got creative, and had some fun. But it does not stop there with the video. They decided to step it up further and get some influencers talking about it. Picking 200 influencers across the Country, they sent each a chocolate bar and a copy of the video. No request for them to blog about it, only a simple thank you and enjoy. They believed that they created something creative and fun and it would be only natural for people to talk about it  (like we are doing right here).

Something interesting about this all is they didn’t pay anyone to talk about their video. The popular belief is to get influencers to blog about your stuff or tweet about it you have to give them some money. This could be true, but doesn’t mean that it has to be the only way to do things. In fact, I would go as far to say that if you pay for marketing of this kind you are missing out on 50% of the power that it could be. People can snuff that stuff out from miles away.

How do you go viral? You take an idea, put some creativity into it, share it with others, and let the dust settle. But the biggest thing is you have to be strategic. You have to pay attention, you have to care. Let’s look at Bieber again, he was one of the few that “got lucky”. The reason he put those videos on youtube was to share them with families who couldn’t make it to his talent shows. He wasn’t trying to get signed, he wasn’t trying to be one of the hottest things out there. Instead he was just using a tool to showcase his talents. But, looking back at the New Dork video, there was planning, strategic thinking, and a lot of work that went into them going viral. They took a good idea and ran with it. And now they have well over a million views on youtube.

Do you think viral success can be planned?


(ht to Jeff Goins for sharing this story with me)

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Kyle Reed

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I create websites, conversations, and ideas. Advocate for the 20 somethings. Looking to connect everyone to a mentor. Married to my best friend, Ginny. I like my coffee black and my dog Jack. I currently live in Nashville and work at Sony Music/Provident in Nashville
  • Ben

    I think you can plan for success “if” something goes viral, but knowing something’s going to go viral from the get go is kind of luck of the draw, but what do I know.

    Seriously my family bobs their heads in the minivan when we head to soccer tournaments and this song (the og one) comes on. “TURN IT UP DADDY!!!” and the girls sing at the top of their lungs.

    I’m going to play this one and see what happens…

    • Kyle Reed

      hahaha, I am sure they will love it. Very catchy.

      I agree, you cannot predict a video going viral, but you can plan on how to make things spread and shared

  • Adam

    I think that it can be planned. A lot of things have to go right, but you can push it towards that direction.
    Very creative video.

    • Kyle Reed

      yes it is and you are right

  • Jeff Goins

    Love that video.

    • Kyle Reed

      yes, thanks for showing it to me

  • Mark Davidson

    Unfortunately, you didn’t tell me how to make a piece go viral and yes, viral success can be planned. Human beings are kinda funny. We behave first and rationalize later. Our ability to speak, write and rationalize is the only thing that separates us from antelope.

    And that little tidbit about antelope is a big clue as to how to make things go viral. Bieber initially may have had some random success back by talent (questionable in my opinion). Given the size of the population, statistically, stumbling into success does happen without pre-planning but it is rare. 

    Sometimes things go viral and it happens unexpectedly. Sometimes I expect something to go viral and it tanks. Human beings are complex but we are still a part of the animal kingdom. 

    Viral is all about shares. Why do we share something? What drives that behavior? What is triggered in our brains that makes us think, “OMG! I *have* to share this! This is too good not to share!”
    The more universal something is, the more it will have mass appeal, the higher the likelihood will be that we’ll share it. Link to existing associations and then… The trick is to illicit a feeling or emotional response. A physical response in the viewers nervous system. The worst thing is for the viewer to feel nothing or to feel little.Hit the right nerve at the right time. Leverage existing associations. The more universal an experience is, the broader the appeal. Illicit an emotional response or feeling. And finally, get the viewer to see a bit of themselves in the experience you’ve created. The viewer needs to be able to identify with and relate to what they are reading or watching. What we share represents us on some level.Or sometimes, you can just play into people’s suspicions or fears and confirm for them what they’ve already suspected. People love being right and having that AHA! Just as I had expected! I knew it! moment.There are sociological cheats that can be deployed. Just be careful to mask them. Once people know how the magic trick is performed, it ceases to be magical. It ruins the illusion and destroys any wow factor. Once the analytical neo-cortex takes over, any viral potential evaporates. We are targeting the DLS.Final thought, the Got Talent series uses the same trick over and over again. They use story telling as a device. Watch any of those videos. The overweight guy with the attractive girl signing opera. Susan Boyle. The homeless Korean kid who sold gum to survive on the streets. In each case, the unexpected happens and your heart strings are pulled. You feel something. You are surprised or astonished. You identity with the “characters”. And then, you share. You share because you want to share your experience with someone else.Why do we want to share our experience with someone else? What drives us to want to share our experience with someone else?Answer those two questions and you’ll have a better understanding of how to make something go viral.

    • Mark Davidson

      Your blog ate my line breaks. A period and the first alpha-character after it are supposed to be returns. Sorry.