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Capture viral behavior with strange projects

Capture viral behavior with strange projects

[By Karen Geier]

When you think of content marketing today, the traditional way you see it in the marketplace is as a blog post, white paper, video, or some other piece of easily sharable digital content that can help you make your purchasing decisions.

However, some brands are looking at methods to capture the things that appeal to frequent users of social media in a way that grabs their interest and makes the content the center of the story, with the brand name tagging along. These brands are winning with markets that are hard to target by traditional means.

Recently, Hamburger Helper enlisted the help of some producers to create a 5 track mix tape that they distributed on April 1st. While other companies were still trying to find ways to “fool” or “Rickroll” their fans, Hamburger Helper looked for a way to steal the spotlight with actual, not manufactured, surprise.

And they won the day doing it.

Why should you look to replicating a mix tape about eating minced meat? The answer is in how the world shares content.

When most brands invest in social media, they make the same mistakes often. They think of their Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram as an extension of their very dry, very corporate website, or they view it like a magical chute they drop very boring, heavily branded things down, and consider the job done.

The rules of social media readily disprove these methods. If you’re not starting a conversation with something actually worthwhile talking about, then you’ve failed at creating a real social media campaign. You can’t win at social by making antiseptic brand-first tweets or Facebook updates. Just like people recoil from flyers and brand solicitation on street corners, they recoil from brands who think the way to speak to fans is to put up a poll about which flavored toothpaste they prefer.

Rules of Winning with Unusual Content

You want to make sure that your content does not actively work against your brand, obviously. Aside from this cardinal rule, look to leverage these guidelines:

1. Look at what types of content are being shared and which memes seem to be circulating among people in the group you’re looking to reach. This is not a universal thing. Online, people tend to “clump” by interest, but often by investigating interests, you can find more traditional demographic markers.

2. Think about what grabs the attention of the group that you’re trying to target and look for a thread back to your brand. This does not mean that because your followers are into Monday Night Football, you have to draw a strong connection between your brand and football, but you have to find a way for your brand to participate in that conversation in the way a human from that group naturally would.

3. Look for a way to enter the conversation naturally. Hamburger Helper didn’t really advertise or force the mixtape on people. They relied on the natural sharing activity that happens online from confusing the people they were targeting, which led directly to the content being shared.

4. Don’t lead with the brand. Most people are put off by what they deem cheesy attempts by brands to “participate” in conversations online. The tracks on the Hamburger Helper soundtrack all pertained to cooking, and there was a visual branding tag, but the focus was not HAMBURGER HELPER PRESENTS A HAMBURGER HELPER PRODUCTION. This distinction is so important. You can’t fake authenticity.

5. Create content that surprises and delights. There’s nothing better for sharing online than something that confuses or surprises people. Remember, the internet was once captivated by a photo of a dress because of how it surprised them about their responses.

6. Find where people are naturally the genesis of viral sharing and see if you can reach them in an organic way: If you’re not advertising your social media campaign, how do people find it? Grassroots methods. You have to find influential Redditors, bloggers, and social media sharers to share your work with, and when you do, you have to speak to them person-to-person.

Creating weird, highly sharable content is not easy, but the payoff could be huge for your brand, by gaining trust of hard-to-impress people online, and also garnering free media for your brand. It’s important to not start with how a product can be branded, but rather how you can surprise or delight people online in a way they will turn around and share.

It’s important to know that the most trusted people online generally shy away from branded content unless that branded content gives them something that other content doesn’t. Even if the thing your brand gives the community is laughs and surprise, that’s enough for people to readily share your content, and you could then achieve viral success.

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