How to go viral?
July 30, 2013 6:27 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to gin up a social media campaign on a very short timeframe (3 - 4 weeks). I am basically internet literate (witness my longstanding MeFi membership) but I have never done anything like this before. I do have a social media person at work to help, but given the nature of my organization, I'm going to be in the driver's seat. But I feel like since I know the issue, the constituencies, and how to use Facebook, that I'll be able to figure it out and just need to jump in and do it (although I realize it may be a failure anyway). So here are my questions: 1) Is this going to be more complex than I think? Am I suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect? Do I need to vet my strategy with social media "experts" to be successful? 2) Any quick tips for me?
posted by yarly to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What are your goals?
posted by headnsouth at 6:28 AM on July 30, 2013

Response by poster: Without getting too specific, the goals are to put pressure on some high-profile entities to withdraw their support for a public policy position that would probably be defeated without their support.
posted by yarly at 6:44 AM on July 30, 2013

If your org already has a SM following you're right, its really not a big deal. Just tweet like you normally do, mix in promotions or contests and stuff on a single message with whatever lighter stuff you usually talk about. Tease it early, don't wait til the last minute. And so on. If you have enough fans of your online content already, they will engage with you if you put a bit of effort into this new content right?

However if you don't have much of a following at this time, and some brainiac above you thinks this campaign is going to "go viral" (as your headline says (barf)) you're going to need a bigger boat. Getting people who do not already like you to do things for you is, indeed, a specialized task that requires a bit of expertise. Or just bribery. Either have the resources to offer a prize good enough to get strangers to RT or Like your posts in a contest of some kind, or work with an expert to find out how to engage people through pure messaging. It's not rocket science but it can help you to avoid an utter dud.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:45 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm not sure you can force something to go viral. If you are, basically, making an advertisement for something, if you can whip up a good alternate reality game that might be your best bet.
posted by Jacen at 6:46 AM on July 30, 2013

Do you have a budget? It isn't that difficult to put together a slew of quick protests, press releases, and hype a hashtag. Add a single celebrity short video/endorsement and you're halfway there. And there are people who do all that.

I'm assuming you are doing something good, that the high-profile entities are corporations or really rich people, but if that's not the case, ignore all that and just go and tweet to yourself.
posted by history is a weapon at 6:58 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

It is hard to predict what will be popular online. It is basically impossible to engineer one big post / campaign / video / whatever that will be guaranteed to get a lot of attention. On the other hand, if you keep putting stuff out there consistently and it's interesting and not badly made, eventually some people will notice some of it and you'll start attracting an audience. Sudden viral success is sexy and exciting, but it's rare. (Even the things that look like sudden viral successes, usually they spent a long time building up a core audience bit by bit before things started to take off.)

So you should probably be careful in managing people's expectations on this thing. If your promise is "I'm going to take this specific social media campaign viral and change the outcome of this specific policy debate," then you will almost certainly fail to deliver.

A better promise would be "I'm going to use this campaign as a stepping stone to start attracting us an audience. And then I'm going to keep expanding that audience over the next few years, so the next time this sort of thing happens we'll have enough influence to actually change the outcome."
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 9:59 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This is all really useful advice, thanks so much! I realize now that this depends in great part on the presence we already have online. For my org, we're pretty behind the times. But we do have partners with a much greater reach. In combination I think we can give it a shot, but I will keep expectations low. Luckily this kind of stuff is so new to my organization that nobody is really going to notice if I fail!
posted by yarly at 12:22 PM on July 30, 2013

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