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For those of you reading this for the first time or just catching up: <synopsis> Mink (our entry-level marketer protagonist) got his first job at Cobblr, a social media network designed to connect people with odd-sized feet so they can go shoe shopping together to save money. During his first day on the job, he was asked to non-intrusively interact with potential followers.</synopsis>
Alright, so on to my complementary editorial piece.
I’m sure that if you’ve ever been in a marketing-specific, client-facing role at a time in your career, you’ve probably been asked to create a viral campaign. Or at the very worst, expected to create a campaign that goes viral. I’ve been there a few times and it’s a “talk-the-client-off-the-ledge” type of scenario.
One particular individual from a client was under the impression that creating viral campaigns was a core piece of any marketing agency’s repertoire. That relationship didn’t last long.
So what makes something go viral? Honestly, I couldn’t tell you exactly– but after seeing quite a few over the years, I can narrow down the similar qualities that each share to give you a better idea on how to at least think about creating one:
- Timing and Location: It’s literally everything and probably the hardest piece to nail down. It’s like being struck by lightning– your content needs to be in the right place (media channel, social network, etc.) at the right time. Okay, being electrocuted is more of the wrong place / wrong time scenario, but you get the point.
- Incongruity: One of my all-time favorite professors was an honors writing teacher I had in high school. He always preached having “incongruous detail” at the beginning of a writing piece to hook the reader. It’s a technique that places two radically different ideas together and is essentially used to grab the reader’s attention. Viral content has this in spades.
- Originality: Has it been done before? You’ll lose a ton of credibility if you repeat what someone else has done (or capitalize on it) — unless you iterate on something that brings a completely new idea to the table.
- Legs: Will it last long enough to be shared but not too long so that it drifts into obscurity? Viral campaigns see diminishing returns very quickly upon peaking, so the idea needs to be fleeting, but not too ephemeral. Easy, right?
And while the odds of having something go viral seem to be in one’s favor (2.8 billion people online in the world, an endless supply of Internet cats, puppies, babies, etc.) there are several things wrong with this belief, especially when observed through a business lens:
- Just because a lot of people will see whatever the piece of content is, it doesn’t mean that they’re the right people to see it (i.e. your target market)
- Even if you do go viral, there’s a chance the element that is so shareable has nothing to do with your core message (or goals). If Old Spice didn’t sell a ton of product after their big break, do you think they would’ve done it again?
- You’re competing with millions of other messages out there. Couple that with people’s diminishing attention spans and you’ve got less of a chance to break through, kid.
And there’s more. In fact, there’s so much working against you that you shouldn’t rely on promising viral campaigns and instead just view them as a happy surprise. When it comes to marketing, there’s too much else out there that you can control.
What’s your experience with viral campaigns?
Has anyone uncovered the true meaning or purpose of favoriting a tweet? It’s like the social media equivalent of saying “that’s funny” to a joke instead of laughing at it.
I’m always slightly disappointed when someone favorites my tweets. Was the content not remarkable enough to share through a retweet? What types of content do I need to publish to get you to advocate for me? Is there any value beyond the self-actualization triggered by that little yellow star?
Thoughts and opinions are welcome.
One of the clients I worked for during my first job at an agency built a digital platform where girls ages 5 to 12 could design their own clothes online, have them manufactured at a warehouse and then delivered.
Originally, I was not enthused to work on this account– I mean, girls fashion isn’t on the top of my list of things I find interesting– but work was scarce so I swallowed my pride and learned just about everything about pre-teen girl clothes.
One of the marketing strategies we devised was a “mommy blogger” outreach campaign. Moms were the primary decision-makers in this purchase (aside from the occasional girl who “borrowed” mommy’s credit card) so targeting them was the main directive.
To engage the moms in the blogging campaign, I scoured the web for mothers blogging (for reference, this was relatively easy because there are a ton– seriously, a ton), crafted a pitch email that involved trying out the clothes creation platform and writing a favorable review (a gift card was involved to sweeten the deal) and reported back the published blogs to the client.
A few of the moms assumed I was a female marketer (probably because they didn’t realize that a 23-year-old college graduate male was taking any job he could get) and referred to me as “Allie” in their replies, despite the fact I signed emails as “Al”. To save us from mutual embarrassment, I never corrected them.
This gig wasn’t the most glamorous work in the marketing space, but I got some moderate PR experience under my belt and began to understand digital strategy.
While it sometimes may seem like a slog starting out with any job, there’s never a wasted moment. You just need find the value in the experience.
If I knew more about creating and fostering a company culture, I could probably lend some insight into how important it is, how to build one and how companies that fail to define them end up being some sort of dystopian workplace. Having my sole (it’s today’s buzzword!) experience be entirely with HubSpot’s culture (it’s quite good) I can only look at others from an orange colored lens, observe, and poke fun at those who most likely have no idea what they’re doing.
One place I visited for a potential job opportunity back in 2011 before working at HubSpot was a company being run by a college drop-out who had installed a ball pit in the main meeting room. He made a point to tell me that the reason for having such a thing was because he wanted to embody a culture that was all about “having fun.” A bit misguided to say the least. I remember Googling the company again about a year after working at HubSpot– the website 404’d and the social accounts had been deactivated. Now, a quick LinkedIn search shows the company’s founder has positioned himself as a freelance “Growth Ninja.” All reservations of me not having enough content to keep this comic fresh can forever be dismissed.
HubSpot is the only place I’ve worked that has actually acknowledged its culture, defined its vision and done something about maintaining it for future new-hire generations. To learn more on it, I’d recommend checking out Dharmesh Shah’s blog post and supporting slideshare deck.
Getting an entry level job can be one of the hardest moments of your entire career. Unless you work an internship at the company first and get transitioned to full-time (and even that isn’t a sure thing), proving you can contribute enough to justify a salary with little to no real workplace experience beforehand is very difficult.
In my entry-level searching heyday, I brought many creative ideas to interviews that garnered quite some interest. One agency had me come down to Brooklyn to interview with the team for an afternoon. Before my trip I scoured social media, researched each person I was meeting with and designed a little infographic on how I could contribute as a team player at the agency, given that individual’s interests and Twitter history.
In hindsight, this approach was a little creepy, but the team was impressed with my ingenuity and personal touch. But after interviewing that day and several emails later, I got the same “we like you, but we need someone more experienced” rigmarole that added itself to this ever-growing trend of post-interview followup.
The problem? Experience always trumps creativity.
Eventually, I swallowed my pride and decided to stop shooting so high for a full-time gig. I worked as a freelance consultant at an agency after about six months of job searching. While it wasn’t the most glamorous position (I still worked and lived at home), it did fill in the work experience void on my resume. Plus, I didn’t make enough money to qualify for taxes the following year.
My advice for those in this position is to dial it back and prove yourself out through experience. You might want the short term results (and paycheck), but paying up front for experience is an investment.
So, on a related note: What type of animal companion should Mink have?