Everyone these days refers to viral content but what is it?

Engagement – now there’s a word that’s being used a lot more lately, no I’m not referring to an agreed act of matrimony, though statistics suggest this is back on the increase. Rather a mechanism for communication!

One thing the internet is brilliant at, is levelling the playing field, at least in terms of marketing. Clever, savvy business owners of any size can compete equally; the expensive rents of the High Street are no longer the preserve of large chains, at least in the digital world. The trouble is many companies, large and small, are applying traditional media marketing to the social media ‘webonomy’, with the obvious net result being a massive turnoff!

I’m not for a second saying that paid, sponsored or promoted adverts, stories & status updates are all bad. On the contrary, I use them myself regularly! The issue tends to be more the frequency, style and balance, they’ve grown up with adverts on the TV but are less keen on the invasion into what they feel is there own space. And one thing today’s consumer really hates is being preached too intrusively. Social media marketing activity therefore requires an alternative approach.

So the difficulty as always is how to get them not only visiting, but also actually wanting too and far more importantly engaging with you. How do you create something viral?

There are in fact two types of viral content:

An individual post, be it an image perhaps or a video that enough people find interesting or amusing enough to share. To really achieve one of these, without the funds to engage major Ad Agencies (and even some of those have been curtailed and stripped of figures on Youtube lately), it’s a bit like winning the lottery

The other way is to create a mass from a mass!

A mass of people that is! To help with this you need to find and interact with a large group of people, this is not as difficult as it may sound – which I’ll come back. The importance is to make the contact fun and engaging (that word again), so make it interactive, make them feel they’re not being sold to but participating.

Most importantly though, make sure they leave not only with a smile but a memento, a physical memento in the form of a printed photo and a link where upon they can access a digital copy. Facebook is an obvious choice but your own website with appropriate ‘share this’ buttons will suffice.

That same social media user that so dislikes over promoted or obvious sales posts loves nothing better than sharing images of themselves, their friends, family and so on. On any subject, especially if it’s something different. This could be an unusual location, an unusual style, or just an imaginary image.


Believe it or not, despite the volume of smart phones and other small electronic consumables fitted with cameras, prints are still held highly valued. That’s just the first ‘brownie point’, the second is enabling them access to a digital copy of the original. Now imagine if that print and that digital image is properly branded and creative or amusing enough for them to want to share.

Say it with Photos

The strategy has to involve a theme, a random photo, with your brand name on will no doubt gain a response, but to get a great response it needs to be creative. You have to take them somewhere they wouldn’t normally go, ideally one that fits your brand, product or service. To achieve this you’re going to need one of two things: either a photo booth or a photographer with a green screen pop-up studio.

How might this work?

Well in reference to the headline, we’ll look at the example of New Era, the official baseball cap company for Major League Baseball in the States. There London store undertook a fortnight’s promotion where part of the store resembled a dugout, during this period customers could have their photo taken, along with other related activity, and placed into an official baseball card. As ‘Del Boy’ would say, “The punters loved it” The net result was over 21,000 Facebook interactions and over 30,000 twitter impressions that’s an impressive response.

Source Paul Saville, Ignite Europe

Other examples include the Australian Museum who’ve successfully used photo booths to engage with a younger audience and the Power House Museum in opening discussion on their exhibits which went onto be a digital exhibit in itself.

Australia Museum Themed Image

Don’t have a High Street store? No problem, take it to them, a shopping mall, an event? Wherever people gather or pass in larger number, create something that’s interactive, without the big sell and include a mechanism to capture a themed photo and push the social media, not only can you boost your ‘engagement’ figures but far more importantly, convert browsers into fans and ultimately customers.