5 Lessons For You About Going Viral

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Written By Monica Seeber

It was an evening like any other. I certainly wasn’t expecting to become a Facebook sensation. It was Tuesday, 19 May 2015 and I needed to change my bed. As usual, my greyhound Bruce was sound asleep on the bed and showed no signs of moving. It was such a common occurrence that I had developed a way to change the bottom sheet without kicking Bruce off.

Given his levels of resistance, it’s actually easier to work around him than it is to get him off the bed. A friend found our ‘slip and slide routine’ to be very amusing, and so he convinced me to post a video of Bruce and my bed-making antics on Facebook. And so on the night of 19 May, I did.

Launch 19 May – night

Once I had captured the moment, I posted the video on my Facebook account and I shared the video with the Greyhound Adoptions WA Facebook page around 8pm that night. Their organisation had rescued Bruce in 2012 and I adopted him shortly after. I know they’re always keen to receive updates about their rescue dogs, and I knew they would appreciate the video. Greyhound Adoptions WA reshared the video the next morning. What I didn’t anticipate was how much everybody else would love it…

The next day:

Wednesday, 20 May 6pm

8 hours after Greyhound Adoptions WA reshared the video

Views: 4,500

Likes: 102

The day after that:

Thursday, 21 May 7am

Views: 40,910

Likes: 262

Bruce the video star was spreading like wildfire! Greyhound enthusiasts had shared it with other greyhound rescue groups and related pages. Then there were other dog lovers in the general public, who had shared it with their immediate networks. Facebook was sending me multiple notifications per minute as people liked, shared, and commented on the video.

Three days later:

Sunday, 24 May 10am

Views: 200,000

Likes: 998

In a week Bruce had travelled from his quiet home in Perth, Western Australia to all the continents except Africa and Antarctica. I couldn’t read half the comments made on the video because they were in languages other than English.

The wind-down

After a week or so, the frequency of notifications had slowed down. And after a fortnight it was a trickle. By this stage I had uploaded the video to YouTube and while it didn’t go viral like on Facebook, it had still received a healthy number of views (260 or so) for a non-celebrity like me. On Wednesday, 3 June the video was shared with another private greyhound rescue group and the notifications kicked up again.

The results… for now

A month after I had shared Bruce’s video, I still receive several notifications a day – sometimes per hour.

As at 21 July the video has had:

Views: 248, 700

Likes: 1,160

Shares: 4,448

Comments: 270

So, this is what I have learned from watching my video go viral:

  1. “You can’t bottle lightning”

Simon Low from Buzzfeed said “you can’t bottle lightning” when he was discussing #thedress. However,  while you can’t predict what will go viral,  you can make a ‘best estimate’ and tailor your videos and other content to be ‘viral friendly’. You need to have a plan for riding the wave of popularity. Read this great analysis from the team at McCann who created the award-winning Dumb Ways to Die campaign.

[Tweet “Have a plan for how you are going to manage #goingviral – whatever happens be ready. “]

Have your team ready to respond to comments – learn from me and make sure some of them speak languages other than English!

  1. Make people laugh

If you can make somebody laugh, you will instantly build a positive and lasting emotional connection. One wouldn’t expect a campaign about safety around railway tracks would go viral – it’s a serious topic, it’s on behalf of a government body – these aren’t the elements that we associate with wildfire social media contagion. But the Dumb Ways to Die campaign demonstrates that with great content – and making people laugh – you can achieve anything.

What sets laughter apart from other emotional expressions is that it is uniquely human and contagious. [Tweet “Laughter is a social experience and one that individuals feel compelled to share. #goingviral”] When a person finds a funny video they share it with their friends.

The greyhound and the bed-maker is a heartwarming double act. There’s this gangly dog, in a coat, who is just too chilled out to move. There’s me – the bed maker – just getting on with the job. Clearly, I’ve long ago given up trying to move that dog off the bed. It’s a classic animal video and it makes people laugh.

You may think that your content isn’t going to make people laugh. Seek inspiration from this great board on Pinterest.

  1. Know your audience

Sharing a heart-warming video of a greyhound to a group of ‘houndies’ (what greyhound rescuers like to call themselves) is going to be a success every time. Houndies are known for their obsession and evangelical commitment to the breed. Houndies are a niche audience, but they’re a niche audience with connections that spread far and wide. From there you only need a few more dog lovers, animal lovers and people who just need a break — to share as well.

So what demographics or characteristics do your audience members share? The people at Sprout Social are experts in demographics. Learn from them!

  1. What’s your aim in #goingviral?

What do you want to achieve with #going viral? While making the video was the spur of the moment thing for me, by posting it I hoped to achieve a few things.

Firstly, I wanted to thank Greyhound Adoptions WA. By adopting Bruce, we gained a much-loved member of the family. That wouldn’t have been possible without the hard-working team at Greyhound Adoptions WA. By sharing the video with them, I was giving them some content that they could share and re-post on social media. Our good friends at CoSchedule write some great posts on reposting and repurposing content.

Greyhound Adoptions WA has approximately 130 new followers on Facebook and at least half of those liked the page during the week following Bruce’s video. Hopefully, those 130 people are actively engaging with the group by adopting, fostering or donating – I wouldn’t know. If Greyhound Adoptions WA has good social media analytics and can track their audience they will know what they actually gained. Analytics are crucial when it comes to #goingviral. If you’re the type to yawn at data, try reading this delightfully-short guide to social media ROI from Buffer.

Another thing I wanted to achieve was to make people laugh. While my video of Bruce may not have achieved anything tangible knowing that some 200,000 people were motivated to watch it and most likely ended up laughing is a great feeling. We know that laughing is beneficial, so try to make people laugh – even if only for a few minutes.

[Tweet “Bruce the dog has cheered up hundreds of thousands of people #goingviral”]

Finally, I also hope the video has helped to dispel the common myth that greyhounds are a high maintenance, energetic pet. While Bruce might need some maintenace – he needs a coat and clean sheets on his my bed – you can clearly see he’s not the type to be jumping up and down. Educating an audience is a great aim for social media content.

Plan in advance what you want to achieve – is it brand recognition, a change in people’s behaviour, audience education or some other call to action? Whatever your goal, make  your call to action (CTA) clear and compelling.

  1. Satisfying your audience’s needs is important

It’s not always about money. I was able to share a touching moment with my dog and show how Greyhound Adoptions WA’s rescue efforts and hard work really do pay off. It was a small thank you to the people who work to save greyhounds from pointless death.

Watchers of the Bruce the video star were all left with a warm fuzzy feeling and, in that respect, my video did exactly what it was supposed to.

I didn’t make any money from my video of Bruce. I have no merchandise to sell and I haven’t angled for any sponsorship deals with pet food companies. As far as I know, Greyhound Adoptions WA didn’t receive a sudden influx of donations or people wanting to adopt rescued greyhounds (although they may have).

However, the video brightened people’s lives, it gave Greyhound Adoptions WA some great content to repost and it made me realise that while making the bed with an unresponsive greyhound is just a typical part of my week it’s interesting to hundreds of thousands of other people.

What interests your audience? What would make them feel good about watching, reading or listening to content that you have created? What need do they have that you can satisfy?

So what is next for Bruce?

Bruce won’t be getting a Facebook page or YouTube channel any time soon… Mostly he will be sleeping and eating, sleeping some more, and walking… and sleeping, and looking awkward, then sleeping again… Honestly, he’s the laziest greyhound that’s every lived. But I wouldn’t replace him for the world.