Waiting for the Next Hit That Goes Viral

You’ve all probably watched at least one video on YouTube that – against all odds – went viral. Many of them include cute babies or household pets, people doing really stupid things, and of course, the biggest one of all, (with more than 2 billion downloads,) “Gangnam Style” by Korean singer Psy.

Adverts, especially funny adverts, are amongst those that are very popular, and many marketers fantasise about how wonderful it would be if their advert became viral and trendy – and their company famous. In today’s connected world, however, virality, popularity and fame may not be that desirable.

There’s the great story about Dave Carroll and his band the Sons of Maxwell who wrote a song, “United Breaks Guitars,” when his guitar was damaged by the airline and they didn’t respond. To date, there have been 30 million downloads of different versions of the song, and what’s worse is that the airline has suffered financially because of this. The share price dropped substantially, losing millions in market value, and has never recovered.

What these examples have in common is that the stories being told are memorable. The quality of the content is interesting and strikes an emotional chord in customers. Very often, in a world of customers and consumers who are bored, these viral videos, blogs, websites, photographs, and similar content are distinct, unique and fresh. The big challenge is to attract, and keep viewers’ and readers’ attention long enough to get them to do something and take some desirable action.

But remember that going viral in a business context is probably about doing something that your customers want to talk about. How do they experience your business, your people, your products and your services? If you want them to talk, and to talk positively as they spread the word, you need to do something newsworthy that they will want to share, and that will make them interesting.

How do you do that? You have to start by identifying the themes that are important in your customers’ lives…

  • What are they things that they desire more than anything else? What do they dream about?
  • Who are the most important people in their lives?
  • How do they view themselves in the world?
  • What are the fears and worries that keep them awake at night? How can they reduce their stress or guilt, or increase their peace of mind, security and health?
  • What are the triggers that spark their imagination, (things like rebellion, power, mystique, and even sex)?
  • How can they make or save money?
  • What will make their lives simpler, reduce their effort, or give them some more spare time in their day?
  • Can you make them look good with others, or increase their status and reputation?
  • What will make them think that they are better people after they interact with you?

So once you identify the themes that resonate with them and help them to feel more successful, you then need to link these themes to the values and stances that you want to represent in your culture. Do this by educating both your people and your customers, and making sure that all interactions are handled with integrity and authenticity. Look, for example, at the common phrases, templates and scenarios that occur day after day in your business. Challenge behaviours that create inconsistency, non-conformance, mistakes and errors, and upset customers through being just “dumb.”

Finally, empower, celebrate and recognise people on your team who live and love these values and behaviours. Encourage your team in whatever way you can to deliver the best that they can be.

Great service experiences are good for business, and when your customers share this belief you are well on your way to success. But you need to believe (in a measurable way) that excellent service and perfect experiences produce a substantial ROI for your business.

You may never make it onto YouTube, but there is enough evidence to show that it works in all environments.


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