'Think carefully' about viral

'Think carefully' about viral

Never underestimate the power of a cute animal to do the internet rounds, however marketers need to “think carefully” before making virality their main strategy, according to ExactTarget’s Derek Laney.

B&T Magazine
Posted by B&T Magazine

While the abundance of cute cat pictures, funny videos and outrageous stunts is constantly swirling about the abyss of the internet, due to the dangers and saturation of content virality should not be the go-to strategy.

“I don’t think virality’s a strategy, I think it’s an interesting distribution strategy, it’s an interesting optimisation strategy for making our content better, but it’s not a strategy unto itself,” the director of product marketing management told B&T.

The constant stream of social media conversations can also lead brands to get caught up in what’s popular at the moment, an area Laney sees as a bit of a danger for brands.

“It’s very easy to kind of get caught up in something that’s happening around your brand as you’re getting involved in these [social] conversations,” he said.

“There are some classic examples. The food industry is ripe with it. You know a particular ingredient becomes unpopular or the sourcing of a product is problematic…and the brand kind of gets caught up in this kind of viral energy that’s happening on a particular topic.”

According to Laney, the cost of getting attention is increasing due to the saturation of content.

Using an analogy of fossil fuels and renewable energy, Laney and his team are talking to advertisers about how “get off the drug of paid advertising”.

“We talk about it a little like energy right, so it takes a lot of energy to get attention. And there’s a number of ways you can use that energy, one might be paid media. We kind of think about that like burning fossil fuel, you know a limited resource, kind of costly, but it’s effective,” he said.

“Paid media is an incredibly fast way to get attention, but there’s other ways that are more efficient. So if you think about owned media, your own proprietary audience…your own subscribers, fans on Facebook, followers on Twitter, that owned media is more like a renewable source of energy, continue to tap it over time as long as you’re looking after it, continues to just provide value.”

“So a lot of what we’re talking to people about is how to grow these kinds of renewable sources of energy.”

However, with owned and earned media needing a lot more content generated for it Suncorp’s executive, Mark Reinke, believes this will put more pressure on companies.

“What you’re starting to see here with the proliferation of channels and fragmentation of audiences and the sort of social and connected consumer is you have to think like a publisher,” Reinke said at Starcom’s Media Futures Forecast 2014 panel on Tuesday.

“The thing that we absolutely know is that the volume’s going up, the shelf-life is going down and the cost to do it seems to be at least the same, if not more.”

The results from the Media Futures Forecast indicated advertisers are expecting to invest more time than last year on owned and earned media, from 32% last year to an expected 37% this year.

A study from Bain and Company’s Putting Social to Work also indicated that customers who are engaged with a brand online generally spend 40% and are 30% happier with the brand, possibly suggesting a further push into this earned and owned media.

The notion of shared experience, constantly being switched on and sharing, is what Laney believes is one of the big reasons virality is becoming so prominent these days.

“There’s something about cute animals that talk about humanity and it’s a shared experience that everyone feels the same way when they see a cute animal,” Laney said.

“But that shared experience is the thing that causes the virality.

“So things that are very funny or maybe outrageous that cause outrage, human rights stories get shared like crazy, things that are universally seen as awe-inspiring . Those types of things get shared incredibly because of those feelings of awe and it’s kind of a joint experience that we all feel.”

“And when you share it with someone, the fact that you’re sharing it together kind of brings you close and I think that’s why a lot of those personal relationships are used for sharing somewhat trivial stuff, like scientific articles or pictures of cute animals.”