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SALES & MARKETING

Spreading the seed 52

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WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL

Going viral may seem like the holy grail of digital marketing but the real challenge lies in knowing which way the wind is blowing

ronically, when first formulating meme theory in The Selfish Gene in 1976, Richard Dawkins could scarcely be aware of just how far his idea would spread and influence the way we view communication. His language has become indispensable in the discussion of the way ideas are spread in the digital age. Viral marketing is, itself, a rather virulent concept and there are few people operating in digital marketing who haven’t been bitten by the bug. But creating contagious content isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. “There’s producing remarkable content and then there’s going viral,” comments Kieran Flanagan, marketing director of Europe, Middle East and Africa at marketing software producer Hubspot. “I think those two things are quite different.” Starting with the concept of virality and working backward is a little like setting your heart on becoming a billionaire and then trying to slot in any money-maker that will get you there. “People who start with the goal of going viral will more than likely fail because it’s not really a great goal,” he says. Any successful viral campaign will have started with some solid content at its core. How ‘contagious’ a piece of content is will ultimately depend on how well it captures the imagination of your intended market. “It’s about identifying the kind of content that will resonate with your target audience,” explains

David Waterhouse, global head of content and PR at producer of video engagement and social analytic tools Unruly Media. Finding ways to produce tailored content for an intended demographic inevitably means that they will be more inclined to share it. “Recent scientific and academic research has found that the number of shares a video attracts, whether it is user-generated or commercial, is linked to the strength of emotion it elicits from its viewers,” he continues. “The stronger the emotion, the more likely it is going to be shared.” Obviously, then, a marketing strategy of throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks isn’t going to be helpful; when running content-driven campaigns, enterprises need to be able to get inside their audiences’ heads. “Everything, in terms of content, starts with a pretty clear and well thought out persona,” says Flanagan. “You figure out over time what they’re trying to buy and what content they engage with.” By taking a granular approach to your marketing data, it becomes easier to identify the needs and interests of various demographics. “One thing I think is very important when you’re trying to produce all this remarkable content for your personas is to do something called topic analysis,” Flanagan comments. Aggregating analytics under each topic and assessing the performance of a variety of subjects allows a business to see what works and answer some

www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk May 2013

(L)Starting an epidemic.indd 1

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