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Thursday, October 3, 2013

You Want to Go Viral? Be Awesome, Useful, and Science-y

Right now I’m reading Contagious about how and why ideas spread. The art of making things go viral.

I’m going to paraphrase and butcher an important passage in the book while still keeping the essence of its meaning.

For ideas to spread—to go viral—your idea, product, or service must be awe-inspiring, useful, and have something of a scientific element to it.

Of course there are anomalies to this equation. But this provides a nice framework in which to play if you’re working on anything and are looking to spread the word about what you’re doing.

Going viral means more eyeballs on your work. The need for more eyeballs is the need for marketing. Marketing is simply finding interesting ways to tell a story about the story you’re trying to tell. Confused? It’s not a perfect analogy, but think of it like Hamlet and that play within a play. Using a story to tell another story.

Back to our regularly schedule programming. So you have to tell a story about the  show, product, or service you want everyone to buy or see. The story you tell has to be useful.
  • 1) How we at Spiderman on Broadway created a safety program for flying actors  (A how-to article or video for the League of Broadway theaters and
  • 2) XYZ accounting firm releases a tutorial on special Excel formulas to help minimize tax exposure for middle class Americans (video or article)
Pretty cool. Definitely useful. Either of these articles have a decent chance of being shared throughout the web. They can increase their chances if they get a little science-y. (Keeping in mind the original intent and content of the articles/videos.)
  • 1) Within the article, Spiderman’s producers release a number (and brief) how-to manual PLUS they give a few super easy to understand geometric functions on how they measure angles with their new pulley system for flying actors. 
  • 2) Within the article, XYZ accounting shows a few easy-to-understand formulas that even a small child can plug in and play with—maybe even showing a small child doing someone’s basic tax schedule. 
Pretty interesting. A little science-y. 
“Wow, I never thought geometry and theater could coexist and I enjoyed it!” 
“No way! I don’t dread doing my taxes next year… even that second grader was enjoying working in Excel.”
These articles will probably have an even better chance of getting shared and going viral. But make them awe inspiring… something just a little better than you in one area of your life, and you have something that has a stupendous chance of reaching the masses. (Keeping in mind the original intent and content of the articles/videos.)
  • 1) How Mayor Bloomberg flew during a rehearsal using Spiderman on Broadway’s new pulley system… and how he lived to tell the tale. You show a brief video of Bloomberg flying around and safely landing. You have attached to that the brief instructional piece about angles and the new pulley system.
  • 2) How XYZ accounting firm’s Excel tutorial saved one million Americans a total of one billion dollars (an average of a thousand dollars a person) on their taxes.
Be useful, be a little science-y, and be awe-inspiring. Figure out how to tell the story behind the one that’s so readily available at the surface (your sales pitch, your show’s synopsis etc.). There are so many ways to tell that deeper story: videos, Vine videos, customer service, donkey rides, music, your backstory. Once you learn that skill, it’s easily (yet still a challenge) transferrable to another project, product, or service. 

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