What you need to know about Social Distribution and Virality

Social Distribution is a commune practice in marketing, and it includes all those companies that have found growth by distributing content (regardless if this is a textual message, video or audio) through social media platforms, networking, word of mouth, blogs,  classifieds, video channels and so on. Thus, it includes anything that has been socially distributed and possibly (but not necessarily) has gone viral.

In 2008, Dave Carroll’s prized guitar was broken by United Airlines baggage handlers. After over a year of getting the run-around and no compensation from United headquarters, Carroll wrote a song entitled “United Breaks Guitars,” filmed a music video for it and posted it on YouTube. The video had over 1.6 million views in only 48 hours and, within a month, had received 4.6 million views, becoming YouTube’s top-rated music video of all time and was receiving massive popular media attention. United’s stock price dropped 10% on the day CNN picked up the story and discussed the video, costing shareholders $180 million. United was a victim of a potent and multidimensional virus – social virality.

According to Jonah Berger, there are six key points that make virality develop; leveraging these points will make contents and messages become “contagious.” They are:

Social currency: This means that you’re offering content that other people find either very interesting or useful, making them want to share it. An example of this presented in the book is Snapple (the tea). Snapple tried several different marketing campaigns without much success, including putting funny jokes underneath the cap of the bottle. They were hoping that people would share It, but it didn’t work. So what they tried next, it was writing real facts instead of jokes, such as “a glass ball will bounce higher than a ball of rubber”. Now, assuming you are eating with your friends and you get that, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re going to be compelled to share it with them, and they all will be talking about it. This campaign leveraged “social currency” factor well, being a great success as a result.

Triggers: These happen frequently in our daily life, and that’s when something is on your mind waiting for an action (such as buying a product), or on the tip of your tongue and you’ll probably just waiting to talk about it with other people. A great example of a trigger can be found in 1997 when the Mars company noticed a massive spike in their sales of the Mars bar. That really came as a surprise as they weren’t doing anything new with regards to their advertising or marketing plans. After lots of investigations and data-analysis, they realized that during the week of the sales spike, NASA had launched their Pathfinder mission, where they sent a rover to Mars. This mission was largely advertised by media, so people in their day-to-day life were hearing Mars all the time in the news, making them think about Mars all the time, resulting them in buying the Mars bar as soon as they would see this in grocery stores.

Public: This means getting your product or idea more publicly visible to people, of course within a positive light. The example in the book is Apple, when it was working on the MacBook. After several tests, they got to positions the logo to where it is today so that people around can immediately recognize you are using a Mac.

Emotion: The rule here is pretty straightforward: if you can make something that stirs up strong emotions, it’s going to be noticed. If you look at the videos gone viral in your Facebook feed, you will realize they all have strong emotional content. It’s almost regardless if the content is giving a good or bad emotion: that can be a video of a cat doing something funny or it might be something that makes people mad, such as a political message.

The last two key elements that, according to Jonah Berger, would make a content going viral are, in my opinion very straightforward and are practical values: creating content that is useful to people, and stories: your information should be organized in a story-type of content.

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