Sunday, June 11, 2017

Viral Content and its Impacts on Business

Last Saturday, I was talking to an acquaintance, who works in a content marketing company, about viral content in digital media. As we went over recent examples such as the Salt Bae and Hunter College Subway Graduation, it intrigued me to research on what makes a content viral. Here are the highlights:

Positive content
For a content to be viral, it must be shared by people, and positive contents are more likely and easier to be shared. Note that both Salt Bae and Hunter College viral videos are intended to leave viewers with positive feelings.

Content which evokes high emotion arousal
People tend to share content which are relate-able and awe-inspiring. In the subway graduation video, everyone can relate to the student’s misfortune (and frustration towards MTA) and appreciate the support of other strangers in the subway car.

Practical and actionable content
People like to share practical content to their friends and family as it may make them feel smart and useful to their circle. In addition, people like to imitate cool and trendy actions. For those who remember #IceBucketChallenge, the viral challenge was tagged by 2.4 million videos and successfully raised over $100M dollars to support the ALS Association1.

Now, how is this information useful for business school students? Businesses have lots to gain from viral content created by both consumers and businesses. First, viral content can reach wider audience with the same or less cost as targeted content. This wider audience consists of people who may not realize that they need the product until they are exposed to the viral content. In addition, viral content can open doors for global expansion; for example, leveraging his online sensation, Chef Nusret Gökçe is opening his Turkish steak house restaurant in London.

Next, viral content is an excellent opportunity for businesses to build their reputation. In the example of Hunter College, which ended up arranging a private ceremony for the nursing student who was stuck in the subway. It was a good PR opportunity for Hunter College as it enters new school year.

In summary, there are common ingredients of viral contents such as positivity, high emotion arousal, and practicality. In order for businesses to leverage viral content, they have to ensure that there is strong relevancy between the content and the brand.


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