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How to Work the Web Gangnam Style

By Hector Cisneros
By hector Gangnam Style

The YouTube video, Gangnam Style went viral, catching the imagination of millions of people worldwide. As a marketing professional, I endeavor to understand why such marketing events happen. What is the special spark that makes a video, podcast or eBook go viral? Where does it all start? Who influences the play and the spread of your message? Does it all happen organically or is there some technique for propagating the spread. In this article, I will provide a number of useful tips as to why internet posts go viral. I will provide a list of elements that all viral posts have in common and I will provide you with a roadmap so that you can create your own viral post. Soon you too will be working the web Gangnam Style.

What Makes a YouTube Post Go Viral?

Let's start off by defining what a viral post is. A viral post is a post that is passed beyond your direct friends, followers or social network connections. It is passed from friend to friend beyond your network and direct circle of influence. It's when your message takes on a life of its own.

 Facebook defines a viral post by comparing it to Organic Reach and Paid Reach. Here is what Facebook lists as their definitions:
Viral Marketing
Viral Marketing (Photo credit: Mark McLaughlin)
§  Organic reach: The number of unique people who saw your post in Newsfeed, ticker or on your Page.
§  Paid reach: The number of unique people who saw this post through an ad.
§  Viral reach: The number of unique people who saw this post from a story published by a friend. These stories can include liking, commenting or sharing your post, answering a question or responding to an event.

A great viral post will either be entertaining, funny, amazing or compelling in some way. It will provide useful information that most viewers/readers need or want. It also makes the person sharing the post look good to their followers for passing it on.

Keeping an Eye on the Trend

Viral posts are often tracked by the various social media networks. These tracked posts constitute trends. The media refer to this term as "trending". You will often hear the phrase that a video is “trending.” Trends are often grouped or aggregated via special markers. The most common is the hashtag (# symbol), which was started by Twitter.
English: The Logo for the TV show What's Trending
English: The Logo for the TV show What's Trending (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Hashtags are now used by most social networks including Twitter, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook,  Pinterest  Instagram and even Google Search. To use a hashtag, just add the # symbol in front of the word you want to be grouped and tracked. For example: "Check out this video on #Viral Social Media, it's great.  Please RT and share." You normally only use one hashtag per post since using too many hashtags is considered poor form.

Video is more likely to go viral than any other type of post. In fact, video is five times more likely to be clicked on than any other published message. These statistics vary from network to network but video is king in the viral realm. Video with text is followed by pictures with text, then audio with text and text only posts. Facebook statistics show that videos are ten times as likely to be shared than links alone and photos are five times as likely to be clicked on than links alone.

What Elements are You Leaving Out?

Next, let's look at the elements that all viral post have in common. Whenever possible create a short video to go with your post. If you aren't willing to create a video make sure you have a compelling picture or an audio file to go with it. As stated earlier videos have the highest click through and share rates.
Use Hashtags (#)on all your posts. Follow accepted norms when using hashtags and make sure they are used the same way on all your posts. Also, add hashtags such as #viral and #whatshot to connect to other items that are trending. Also, remember that you are not limited to publishing your post only once. I normally post a subject three to four times in a week if I'm trying to start a trend.
The elements of your post should be friendly, familiar and resonate with the general public, not just a select few. Posts need to be designed so they can be safely viewed at work or in mixed company. These types of posts will go viral the quickest. 

Examples of Great Viral Videos

Give your product a personality such as the YouTube videos commissioned by Old Spice. Sexy models telling your story can be compelling for a large audience.  Do something hysterical in an unexpected way and illustrate it with a compelling image or story. The Hamsters used in the Kia Soul videos provide a cute and funny way of connecting with the general public. Cute babies or pets performing silly or stupid tricks coupled with catchy familiar tunes can be very effective. It's OK to be a little creepy.  Many of the viral videos that really take off use music and dance at the center of their themes. The Thriller Prison Video comes to mind and of course the Gangnam Style dance craze is the quintessential example.
The inmates dancing to
The inmates dancing to "Thriller" in their YouTube video (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Now not every post has to be funny or useful. It's ok to pull on people’s heartstrings. Telling an emotional inspiring story is a great way to get people to pay attention to your plight. Provide useful and timely content. Your post must be useful in some intrinsic way. It must either be entertaining or useful to the general public. It's OK to ride the wave of some new trend. You can jump on the bandwagon and follow someone’s coat tails. After Gangnam Style came out, dozens of imitators soon followed. Many famous video music artists are emulated in funny ways. These videos don't get as many views as the original but many do garner thousands of hits. Your job is to add your message as a preview or post trailer to your video, so that when the public watches your video, they also see your marketing message. Videos that garner lots of views can pay big dividends in the way of pay per click revenues.
Most of the videos, audios and eBooks that have gone viral were shared because their originators asked that they be shared. If you don't ask, you have a 40% less chance of being shared. Share your post with as many people as possible. Especially share your posts with influential followers and leaders in your industry. This includes celebrities. Also make sure you send it out to the news media. One good news story on your post and you're off to the races. Don't forget to use free PR posting sites whenever possible.

Your Road Map to Going Viral

Now let's look at a road map that you can use to get your next post to go viral. First create a list of influential followers so you can personally message them to share and repost your message. Make sure you use a hashtag and leave space for others to add their comments.
Create four types of posts, one video with text, one with a picture and text, one audio and text and one text only. Make one of them the focus of the four. I would make it the video post as it is the most likely to go viral first.
Courtesy of

Decide what your video, audio or eBook will contain. Remember it must have intrinsic value. It has to be funny, entertaining, compelling, emotionally charged or provide useful information that people need or want! Create a list of what’s needed to create your video, audio or eBook.
If this is your first try, create an eBook full of useful information. You can share important information you have gleaned from your industry. You can answer important questions that customers most often ask. EBooks are the easiest type of viral posts  to create. Now create a teaser video that provides a few of the elements from your eBook as the focus of your campaign. Find a compelling photo and create an audio from the video. Also make sure you provide a URL address where viewers can go to get your eBook.
If you're good with video or audio create that type of content as the primary piece. Just remember this is not a commercial. Your video, podcast or eBook is a soft sell at best. Even if you create an eBook as your first project you should still create a short video to go with it. Videos have the highest viral rate and it will lead people to your free eBook which in turn leads them to you. Create your video, audio or eBook and run it by some friends or coworkers who will be somewhat objective. Tweak whatever problems they point out.
Make sure that you embed ample backlinks to your website/landing page or whichever web property you want visitors to find. Also make sure these landing sites are designed to either generate leads, phone calls or sales. I often see well designed viral efforts fail because the landing site was not set up for converting visitors. Check out "The Evolution of Internet Advertising" and "Is it Still Possible to Make Money Online?" for more details.
Post your message to as many social networks as possible. Start with the top five; YouTube, Facebook, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn. I would also add Pinterest, Instagram and Picasa, especially if your product is visually oriented, requires some assembly or has special operations. If you have a blog, write several blog articles about your new post. Spread these blog posts out over several weeks. Make sure you especially ask your friends and family to share, retweet and repost your message. Send your message to your list of influential followers. Appeal to their needs and make sure you thank them personally in advance for sharing your message. Again use uniform hashtag convention and leave room for their 2 cents. Create several PR posts for your video or eBook. The press can help your post get found. There are many free PR sites. See my article "Using Press Releases to Promote your Business" for more tips and details.

In this article, I discussed what constitutes a viral marketing post, how they are spread and most importantly how they can help you get more business. It provides list of tips and techniques you can use to maximize the chances of your post going viral and It provides a road map that you can use as a model to design your next viral campaign.

That's my opinion; I look forward toward hearing yours.

If you found this article useful, share it with your friends, families and co-works. If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the comment sections below.  If you would like a free copy of our book, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century", fill out the form below. 

Hector Cisneros is COO and director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web To Win" on, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success.”

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1 comment:

  1. The more soldiers on the internet battlefield fighting for you the better!