photo credit: woodleywonderworks http://www.flickr.com/photos/wwworks/

So, you’re going to make a “viral video.” It’s going to be funny or perhaps sensational, or better yet, sensationally funny. You’re going to post it on YouTube and Facebook. You’ll blog about it, tweet about it, maybe even spend a few bucks advertising it (you know, just to prime the pump). It’s going to be amazing.

Right?

Wrong.

The truth is you are more likely to wake up with your head sewn to the carpet than to see your next marketing campaign (video or otherwise) “go viral.” And yes, that actually is a scientific fact*.

3 Simple Examples of Going Viral

So what can you do to capture the attention of thousands [of potential customers] without spending a fortune on advertising, pay-per-click or [gasp] tradeshow schwag? The answer is simple. Be useful. Be helpful. Give away something of value. In fact, give away lots of somethings.

1. Ball Square Fine Wines

There's a local wine shop that does this wonderfully. They offer free weekly wine tastings, ongoing special events (always with lots of free product to enjoy), and a cask full of fantastic “wine 101” content on their blog and through various social media. Rumor has it they'll soon be launching a mobile version of their site and integrating Foursquare and opt-in text messaging into their marketing strategy. Sure, great wine selection and a convenient location are important to their business, but it’s the extra level of giving and helping that drives people to buy more wine from them, more often.

2. The Geek Squad

The Geek Squad is another example of a company benefiting from an effective strategy of “giving it away.”  Both their website and their YouTube channel are packed with do-it-yourself tips and how-to’s for “aspiring geeks,”—in spite of the fact that Geek Squad’s bread and butter is coming to the rescue when you can’t do it yourself. According to founder Robert Stephens, this seemingly contradictory strategy yields many of their best customers.

3. HubSpot

HubSpot, of course, is notorious for giving away tons of valuable tips, stats, and tools aimed at helping marketers generate more leads and more sales, more effectively. In fact, the company founders literally wrote the book on it . Sure, they’ve appeared in a few “ viral videos ,” too, but being helpful is at the core of the company’s approach and is evident across every corner of its campus.

Unlike a typical "viral video," being helpful is more than a marketing strategy, it’s a business strategy —one that relies more on being what people are interested in, rather than interrupting what people are interested in. It doesn’t require an advertising budget to prime the pump or a sensationally funny(?) clip of Charlie biting someone’s finger to gain people’s interest. Better still, Google will love it, and more prospective customers will be able to find you online.

So, go ahead. Right now, ask yourself how you can be of service to your current and potential customers. What problems can you solve? What questions can you answer? What knowledge can you share?

Turn that into a blog post, a free eBook, a podcast, or hell, even a video.

Of course if all else fails, I know this really good video guy.

*Ok fine, it's not at all a scientific fact. But I did read it somewhere on the Interwebs. So it must be true.

photo credit: woodleywonderworks


Originally published Mar 4, 2011 7:30:00 AM, updated October 20 2016

Topics:

Viral Campaigns