What makes people want to share your content / product / service, i.e. how can I optimize my viral hooks?
A tough question .. and an irrelevant one at the same time. Why? Well, if that’s how you think about viral marketing, then it just isn’t viral at all. Actually, I think neither is most viral marketing. The term “viral”, after all, deliberately draws the analogy to a virus and spreading a virus isn’t optional. It does not require the carrier’s consent to spawn. Evangelizing for your content / product / service, however, is very much optional. You are basically at your audience’s mercy, hoping that they will share. Though I do have to admit that I always felt an irresistible urge to share Old Spice videos.
So what is true viral marketing then? Well, first of all, we need to clarify that “virality” is not something that you can just cover your product with like you can cover a cake with icing. For it to be truly viral, virality needs to be built into it. Skype, for example, is inherently viral because you couldn’t even use it yourself, if you wouldn’t share it with other people (unless you enjoy hearing your own voice as much as I do). Dropbox is another example. Even though you don’t have to share it with other people, you get even greater value out of the product yourself if you do so.
Ironically, the example of Skype also shows that virality does not necessarily require being as effortless as possible. An effortless messenger would not require you to build up yet another contact list. That’s a huge barrier to overcome. Instead they would integrate with other messenger networks so that you can continue using your established contact lists. However, in that case, why would anyone share that messenger with you? They’re not getting any value out of evangelizing for it.
There’s many other examples of virality, but for those I would just recommend you to read Eight Ways To Go Viral on TechCrunch. Also, I do realize that the question I have posed in the beginning is actually a valid one to ask, as I am sure there’s things you can do to make your message more shareable. The point of this post is simply that there’s much more to virality than what marketers are trying to tell you .. and not everyone can pull off a Dollar Shave Club. :)