An Overview of Current Viral Content and Its Role in Digital Marketing

There’s no escaping the current political race in the USA. Everywhere you look across the digital landscape you will see it rear its ugly, dramatic head in countless different formats – from spoof videos to feature articles. Viral current affairs such as this are an incomparable resource for content marketing.

They basically serve you on a silver platter the foundations for powerful and, most of all, sharable content that is immediately relevant to a wide audience. Tapping into this resource could very well be an invaluable pillar of your digital strategy, but can also be precarious ground where credibility is concerned.

No two digital strategies are the same, and as such current viral content may not be for all. So, the question remains: should you integrate viral current affairs into your digital strategy and content marketing?

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Viral content is incredibly powerful, there’s no denying it. The Internet is an unpredictable place and content is never assured to become viral. However there are a few things to consider when integrating current affairs into your digital strategy.

What’s Viral?

Viral content is exactly what you think it is: anything that is infectious and spreads – like a virus. And once it catches on, there’s no stopping it. Social media is the main host of this virus, and provides the perfect platform for its domination. The Internet can be a cruel place, a sea of content to get lost in, and all too often it can feel like its vastness is also its downfall. But viral content couldn’t possibly exist without the numbers, and no other place provides a social network as gargantuan as the Internet.

When it comes to creating viral content, one thing is for sure: there is no tried-and-testing method for its creation. In the viral world, nothing is foolproof or set in stone – it’s an ambiguous realm that can both surprise and disappoint you in the same day. The Web is a democracy – governed by the people – and this means that it is ever-changing, a reflection of the world and the people in it. People’s tastes and attitudes, likes and dislikes, shift on a daily basis, so something that may have gone viral a week ago could be equally fruitless today.

This has something to do with the state of current affairs and what the world is looking at. Content is timely, and a big part of content strategy is picking and choosing content based on its relevance to a time and place – also known as content curation.

What Viral Current Affairs Can Do For You

Existing viral affairs can be incredibly enlightening for potential content ideas. Take the American political race as an example. As a basis for content creation it is a topic that guarantees recognition, because it is both relevant and timely to a wide audience. It is ‘trending’ – and following trends assures you will fit in. Just how much, however, is somewhat out of your control. The direction that you take existing viral topics is entirely dependant on your brand identity, but the beauty of viral current affairs is in its versatility as a platform to be build upon – fertile ground for ideas to be planted in and grown.

Content marketers should have a keen and constant watch on the world around them, perpetually taking in data and analysing its potential for further exploitation. The chance for content creation around a viral affair that is relevant to your product may not come by very often, but could be a limitless resource for reaching a wider audience. And to miss this opportunity could be a waste of essentially free marketing gold.

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The Path to Creating Viral Content

Content goes viral because it resonates with people, prompting the need to share with others. So the aim to create potentially viral content is essentially the endeavour to create something that is sharable. Social media makes this incredibly easy, actively promoting content to be turned viral with various ‘share’ buttons and re-post tools.

Simply re-posting already viral content definitely has power if it is relevant to your niche (or even if it is isn’t – however, this can also be damaging but we’ll get to that later). But without a well-established audience, re-posting can have little power in growing your audience. The idea is to build upon current viral content or topics with something original that adds to the conversation. This prompts sharing of your content (not someone else’s) and thus the potential for reaching an unprecedented number of new visitors to your digital assets.

Content that inspires an emotional response has a higher potential for going viral. Emotions like happiness, excitement and intrigue are powerful tools for content creation, but anger can be equally powerful, especially with political topics. Re-posting or redeveloping viral topics will usually require you take a emotional stance on the topic, prompting others to join in your frustration or joy. Re-contextualising or re-purposing current affairs to suit your own opinion can hold great stead in the potential for going viral.

For example, this video of Donald Trump’s face and voice during various speeches, superimposed into scenes from Game of Thrones takes the original dialogue completely out of context, repurposing it to vent the frustration of the creator, while simultaneously evoking laughter from the audience. This kind of viral content is incredibly powerful, and if it can made relevant to your brand, it can have huge benefits for you.

There are some incredible tools for analysing trending topics online. Buzzsumo is a prime example of a tool that is purely used for finding and repurposing content that has proven viral potential. If popular topics on Buzzsumo can be somehow used to your brand’s advantage, you automatically have yourself as basis for relatable, relevant content.

There are also insight tools on Facebook and Twitter that allow you to analyse what content has been trending at any given moment (you can change the time and date preferences). You can also filter by type of content to see what videos, photos or links are popular at the time. These have proven impact on social media and can be reused for you own needs – viral repurposing.

Problems with Going Viral

Despite the potency that viral content may have, it is also treacherous ground. The Internet is extremely hostile, populated by people hidden behind computers screens with agendas and the perfect tool to service their opinions right in front of them. As much as viral content can be positive – people sharing something because they like it – it can also be detrimental. We see things being shared in order to shed a negative light on a particular piece of content, and this content will often spread much quicker than something people like. A badly executed meme or tasteless piece of content can have terrible impacts on your credibility.

Take for example Woolworths back in 2015. Their 100th ANZAC Day anniversary marketing campaign, which entailed a meme generator website which created a profile picture for your Facebook with the words “Lest We Forget, ANZAC 1915-2015. Fresh In Our Memories” embossed over your image.

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The tastelessness of the campaign – using the Woolworths tagline (“fresh”) in a horrendous pun – led to Woolworths being absolutely chastised for it. The Internet went wild, abusing the meme generator website to create spoof images which were subsequently shared virally across the Internet – all automatically with the Woolworths brand logo pasted in the bottom right corner.

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This kind of backlash was completely out of Woolworths’ control, and once it was on social media, spread like wildfire. The implications for their brand identity were catastrophic – all because of an ill-advised, attempted viral content campaign aimed at being current and timely.

This is just one – very clear- example of how viral content is completely out of your control once it is out there on the web. Anything poorly executed, without careful consideration of the possible negative consequences, can have a dire impact on your brand. Viral content is powerful stuff. Use it wisely.

Digital strategy is the process of carefully considered digital marketing methods that when combined help grow your business. Each industry and client is different and therefore require a uniquely tailored approach.

With clients as diverse as a Krav Maga gym, a Lebanese Pizzeria, a top Australian music blog, and one of Australia’s biggest flooring companies, we know the importance of bespoke digital strategy.

Where to from here? We’d love to hear about your business and help you achieve your highest brand potential. Please feel free to call us on +61 (0) 2 9519 9922 or email letstalk@ifyoubuildit.com.au

Radi Safi

by Radi Safi

Radi Safi is the Creative Director at IYBI. In 2012 he launched Happy, a music blog and media company.
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