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  • Writer's pictureJodi-Tatiana Charles

Can You Pay for Something to Go Viral?

February 2, 2021

I am often asked that by my clients and at speaking engagements; my short answer is NO!

Photojournalist Brendan Smialowski was in the right place, at the right time, and captured a simple moment. He submitted his photo to a wire service and within hours the world started to #feelthebern through a photo turned meme of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

So how did one simple photo become so sharable?

I would like to imagine that a creative someone saw the picture on the wire and thought, “Bernie would be happier if…” (fill in the blank). The meme that was probably created for “shits & giggles”, opened the gateway of creativity and global entertainment, and eventually led to the senator raising $1.8M from the meme as well as the teacher Jen Ellis who created the infamous mittens to partner with Vermont Teddy Bear Company to mass-produce the mittens, all money raised, for charity.

So back to the question, “Can you pay for something to go viral?” I’m still sticking to, NO!

Viral marketing is all about word of mouth. Yes, that is so old school, but guess what, 1980 Faberge Organics Shampoo, “and They Told Two Friends, and So On and So On”. When you like something, you tend to share it with your community and they share it with their community, ta-dah, it goes viral. Why you ask? Because we trust our communities!

Viral is all about being transparent, sometimes raw, spontaneous, not forced, timely and bold, persuasive, informative and/or entertaining for our target audience. It’s doing something so organic that it’s sticky, long term, and you can’t put a price on that. Even the biggest companies are in awe when something they’ve done goes viral, don’t let them fool you into thinking they knew it was coming.

Here are “some” of my favorites, that you may recognize. All surprises, when they went viral.

2010 Old Spice - The Man Your Man Could Smell Like

2012 Gangnam Style

2014 Ice Bucket Challenge

2015 The Dress

2016 Pokémon GO

2017 The Floss

2018 Yanny or Laurel

2018 FCK – We’re Sorry

2019 Popeye Chicken Sandwich

2019 Baby Yoda

What I’m trying to say is, instead of looking for quick ways to make “your thing” go viral, invest in building some viral characteristics into your everyday marketing strategies:

● simplicity of the concept

● effective visuals

● creativity when joining other viral campaigns

● reach out to your communities

● think outside the box

● and have fun!

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