Herd, Viral - Confused?

| More

Have you heard of this?  If not, read on, because it could be an important part of how you market your brand.

Social media has become a fundamental part of life for many of us. It has changed the way brands communicate with their audience, and creates new behavioural dynamics as part of this shift. It has also changed the way people consume news and engage with brands. The viral fundraising phenomenon which emerged from social media this year, provided evidence of the impact it can make in a very short period of time.

The recession over the past few years had had a major impact on charity donations.  So when the new viral fundraising trend began, two charities were in the midst of the maelstrom, as major beneficiaries this year.  Cancer Research UK and the ALS Association found themselves benefitting from this new phenomenon.

Cancer Research UK was the beneficiary of £8 million in 6 days as a result of #nomakeupselfie on Twitter. Something that began as an argument at the Oscars was transformed into a viral trend by thousands of women posting “selfies” wearing no make-up, in order to raise awareness of breast cancer.  It was such an easy thing to do that women responded emotionally to contribute to such a worthy cause.  The compulsory “made up” face has become less ubiquitous in the 21st century and women threw caution to the wind, albeit, with subdued lighting!

The Ice Bucket Challenge, which started in the US, became associated with the ALS Association when golfer Chris Kennedy challenged a relative, with a strong personal connection with ALS, to take the challenge or make a donation. The trend went viral and ALS donations quickly exceeded $100 million. It also crossed the Atlantic, raising £6 million for the MND Association in the UK.  Screams, yells and much whimpering followed this viral episode, while at the same time engaging people in a “fun” activity for a good cause.

Mark Earls, described this type of behaviour in his iconic book “Herd”.  The hypothesis that people are more than willing to copy others reflected the well known line that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”.  This holds true as can be seen in the two examples above.  So in the context of viral, a template to copy, encourages people “to do the same” and by nominating others “to do the same” the challenge is spread and it spreads quickly and organically.  As the phrase goes “everyone’s a winner” which in marketing terms is quite rare.

So what does this mean for healthcare organizations and how can they take advantage of this new behavioural dynamic?  The key points to consider when developing a video (which hopefully will go viral) are as follows:

a.         Put the right emotions in play

Researchers have identified some common denominators when studying emotions evoked in high viral content. The overarching message should be positive. The subject matter may provoke sadness, fear, frustration, or some other not-so-jolly feeling, but the outcome and/or call to action should be positive or uplifting.

Anticipation and surprise are highly effective. When content drives curiosity, creates a sense of astonishment or makes people uncertain about what’s coming next, it has higher potential to go viral.  Evoking admiration also works well to increase social shares.

b.         Tug on heartstrings quickly, but weave in some “normal,” less emotional moments, too.

If you want a video to go viral, be compelling from the outset.  The easiest way to lose your audience is to make them wait while you set the stage. Because you want people to watch and share, your video should take them on a little ride – the proverbial emotional roller coaster so they are driven to offer friends and family the same experience by sharing it.

c.         Do not inject too much of your brand in the content

You can put your stamp on it, but keep it minimal – company name, logo and maybe a quick line of copy at the end to tie the messenger in with the message. Go too far beyond that and people will decline to share your content just as they would if you asked them pass out promotional flyers on the street. It is much more about what you do than what you say, so keep your footprint small on viral content and save your role for where it matters most: real-life patient experiences.

d.         Consider your options with Influencers.

Who out there can help you reach – and influence – enough people to make your campaign go viral? Think local celebrities (or national celebs who grew up in your community). Think relevant thought leaders with significant social followings. Think bloggers and reporters with lots of engaged subscribers – and ask yourself who among them may take an interest in your message and reach thousands of potential “sharers” with just one click?

e.         Make your content useful and helpful.

Whether or not it goes viral, content with practical applications helps you garner attention as an expert or helpful resource. The same researchers who identified the most effective emotions for viral content also discovered that PSA-style messages – those that serve the “public good” – have potential to go viral. This claim aligns with separate findings that suggest many people are happy to support health related causes by sharing on social media.

 Examples of Pharma Company Viral Videos

Janssen’s ADHD YouTube video allows post-moderated comments. The interactivity is clearly why it has been so popular, with high levels of engagement from an early stage. Comments on the video mainly appear to be from people with the condition talking about how they feel about it.

Diabetes “Big Blue Test” campaign.  This US-based video promised to donate money to charity every time it was viewed – a shrewd and effective tactic to increase hits. For UK pharma, this is more of an interesting case study to show what a great healthcare video can look like, especially since it now appears comments on videos are possible following the Janssen ADHD video.

Pfizer Counterfeit Campaign.  This is a bit different as the video was also broadcast on UK TV, so is not made to be viral alone. However, it has some of the traits of a good viral video – it’s shocking nature means it travelled through word of  mouth (online and off-line) and it was also highly relevant and accessible to a wide audience, engaging people on their terms rather than the usual corporate content.

So what does this tell us about healthcare videos? Firstly, in some cases a video or series of videos is enough to centre a campaign around, without costly website build. Secondly, there is an obvious point to make about where the interactive element fits – if not on the page where the video sits then where else? Thirdly, it is easy to copy something that has worked online before but will this actually catch on? Finally, there is the ‘pub test’. In the same way a national newspaper journalist will often test the strength of a story by considering if it is something they might mention in a pub conversation, so should a video have the same ‘tell a friend’ factor. Just as social media needs to be ‘social’ to work properly (not a wall closed for comments), so a viral video needs to be ‘viral’.





Like this article? Sign up and we'll send more like this

Includes industry articles, updates and free tips.

Sign Up Today Here and receive a free MR product lifecycle chart

Newsletter Archives

View our previously sent e-mail newsletters

Share this article

| More

View list of recent articles

Sign up to Newsletter

Includes industry articles, updates and free tips.

Sign Up Today Here and receive a free MR product lifecycle chart

Newsletter Archives

View our previously sent e-mail newsletters

Subscribe to RSS feed

Research Red Blog RSS Feed

Articles by category

Articles by month