How to make something go viral: The # 1 free resource

interesting and or surprising is a must to go viralEvery entrepreneur who is bootstrapping their business knows that learning how to make something go viral is an important skill to have when marketing on a budget. Unfortunately, learning this process is not something you can Google and figure out. Getting an advertising campaign to go viral is both an art and a science, and therefore requires both left brain and right brain thinking. This is the main reason people attribute the process of going viral to luck, as this is the easiest way to explain something going viral when you are unable to unravel the complicated path that was traveled before hockey stick growth kicked in.

For example, Kevin Ashton wrote a detailed play by play breakdown of how the Harlem Shake imitation videos recently went viral in an article titled “You didn’t make the Harlem Shake go viral—corporations did.”  He explained that although the prevailing assumption is that growth of this viral video phenomena was organic, in reality it was an orchestrated effort by corporate interest. While Ashton breaks down this example of how to make something go viral, he briefly mentions the one key websites that was critical along the way to viral.

The obvious website that pops into most people’s head when they think about how to make something go viral, which is also at the center of the Harlem Shake story, is YouTube. There is no question that YouTube is a fantastic resource for viral videos. However, there are millions of video’s on YouTube created with the intention of going viral that have less than 100 views. That is why starting with YouTube is not recommended.

So where should you start?   According to Ashton’s breakdown, the Harlem Shake videos didn’t start to go viral until around February 7th or 8th when an employee at a major YouTube video production company named Maker Studios saw one of the imitation videos on a website named Reddit.  Reddit has somewhat of an underground following. It’s one of the top 100 sites in the world, but get’s little fan fare from the mainstream.  As a matter of fact, I would venture to say most adults over 30 have never heard of Reddit.  Nevertheless, I believe Reddit is the #1 free resource to start with in order to answer the question of how to make something go viral.  Let me explain why.

  1. Reedit is a destination website.  The millions of people who visit Reedit everyday do not get there through Google, they get there by typing Reddit directly into their browser.  This is an extremely important nuance when considering the marketing value of  a website.  When someone gets to a website through Google, their intent is not to be on that website.   Their intent is to get an answer.  Therefore, a Google searcher will likely spend the minimum amount of time on sites they find to get their answer, then go back to Google and keep searching.  On the other hand, when someone types a website they like in their browsers everyday, they are far more likely to go there to meander around through several pages before they move on to the next website. This is a key aspect of discovery which leads to #2…
  2. People who visit Reddit go there specifically to DISCOVER  interesting and surprising things.  If you read my article on the 3 traits of a viral advertising campaign, you know that having something interesting and/or surprising is a must to go viral.  The fact that millions of people use Reddit everyday specifically to find stuff with viral characteristics makes Reddit a mind blowing asset to make something go viral.
  3. People who visit Reddit go there specifically to SHARE interesting and surprising things. Okay so here is the kicker.  Not only is Reedit a discovery site, it is a sharing site.  Bottom line, people who use Reddit are constantly seeking interesting and surprising things.  These same people like to be the first to share them with their friends because it makes them look cool (i.e. interesting and surprising). Need I say more?
  4. It is almost by definition that the top influencers on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin need to share interesting and surprising  articles, videos, and images to remain a top influencer.  As a result, many of these people use Reedit to feed the sharing beast the drives our social media culture.

Taking these 4 factors into account, if you are trying to figure out how to make something go viral and you are not yet a daily user of Reddit, I suggest you sign-up for an account today.


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