Going Viral, Digitally Speaking

Digitally speaking, going viral has nothing to do with the flu. Instead, it means that a message, video, article, or graphic spreads quickly to a large number of people – like, a million.  It’s every marketer’s dream to have their marketing campaign go viral.

On January 9, 2021, Texas attorney Rod Ponton appeared before the 394th Judicial District Court via a Zoom call with old Dell software that showed him as an adorable furry white kitten with big, sad eyes due to a stuck filter.  Judge Roy Ferguson released the video and issued a Zoom Tip about filters.  Within three hours, the video had 1.6 million views and by the end of the day, it had been watched 16 million times and counting. ICYMI, you can find it on YouTube as the Kitten Zoom Filter Mishap video.

The El Paso Times, the BBC, USA Today, Washington Post, and New York Times all ran articles on the event, and USA Today and the BBC ran follow-up articles the day after.

The same day, The US ambassador to Vietnam, Daniel Kritenbrink, released a rap song ahead of the Lunar New Year to celebrate the country’s Tet festival.  While the viral aspect of the kitten incident was totally unplanned, this rap song was. Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-N5HQtiOMc

Why Do Things Go Viral?

People most often share information that is unusual, funny, or delightful. If the item triggers an emotional response, a person is likely to share it.  The more people who have the same emotional response will continue to share, triggering a viral cascade.  One reason the Kitten Zoom Filter Mishap was shared so quickly is that it possessed all three characteristics, not to mention its depth of hilarity.  I couldn’t stop laughing for two days (and I have a very narrow sense of humor).

The most shared type of content is news. People who post breaking news first will often be in a position to have their post shared. Other types that are shared include humor and opinion pieces.

Is Going Viral Desirable?

Going viral does not necessarily equate to making money or acquiring clients. At worst, it can be a fleeting 15 minutes of fame. At best, it can be a goldmine.

To go viral on purpose requires a carefully crafted ad campaign with a heavily-staffed back office to handle the potential volume. Think about an original angle of your work and how you can tie it to client needs; this will be the seed for your viral campaign.

A secondary way to monetize a viral moment is through ad revenue from the video views. This requires careful setup in advance of the viral event.

The best way to monetize a viral event is to be ready.  If you are appearing on TV or in front of a large crowd, you can have a website with an email opt-in set up ahead of time to build a list. On January 20, 2021, a picture of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders wearing handmade mittens at the inauguration become a meme that went viral for a week. He put the image on promotional items such as t-shirts, sweaters, and stickers that he offered for sale. Within eight days, he raised $1.8 million for Vermont charities.

If you’d like to explore viral opportunities for your marketing, please reach out any time.