going viral – cost effective communication at its best




Perhaps the biggest problem with Donald Trump is that he is, like many property developers – transactional. Some property developers may be able to afford to be transactional given that people do not buy property very often, but for other property developers and most businesses, maximising profitability involves maximising the lifetime value of each and every customer.

Maximising the lifetime value of each and every customer involves implementing strategies that maximise conversion rates, the average sales per customer, margins, repeat business rates and referral. This paper addresses referral and, more specifically, the contribution that ‘going viral’ can play in maximising referral rates – as well as enquiry rates and the perception of value.

The proposition is that the 2020s is the era of viral marketing, and businesses need to make more of the potential for their messages to ‘go viral’. In my experience, while the potential of ‘going viral’ with a marketing message may be understood, few businesses are making the most of viral marketing – with many opting for a lazy and more expensive approach to communication, involving advertising.


While much has been written and spoken about the potential of going viral, less has been written about what it means to go viral, the benefits of viral marketing, and what matters most in viral marketing.


80 percent of online firms use viral marketing

Viral marketing is potentially effective for both online and offline businesses. However, there are few businesses that it suits better than an online business. This is perhaps why recent research found that 80% of online businesses use viral marketing. But what is viral marketing?

When people talk about viral marketing, they are often referring to online communication involving a blog post or email. The fact is, however, viral marketing is best defined as – a method of marketing whereby consumers are encouraged to share information about a company’s goods or service. Such marketing or communication can come in two forms:

  • Online
  • Offline


Online viral marketing generally involves the sharing of content by email, blog post, social media video or similar. It is a form of marketing that has been around for a little more than 20 years.

Offline viral marketing generally involves word of mouth with content or ideas being shared person to person, directly or through traditional media. It is a form of marketing that has been around since Adam and Eve – or the time they might have existed if they did ever exist.

Word of mouth marketing has been found to drive 54% of purchase decisions. Research suggests that 59% of people in the US believe face to face or voice to voice word of mouth referral to be highly credible. By contrast, only 49% of people surveyed believed that online referral was credible.

Viral marketing has potential both online and offline, and while the potential spreading of a message might be faster online – messages can be more credible offline. That said, online viral marketing can offer the marketer a level of control not available offline. Online viral marketing can be less sensitive to ‘Chinese whispers.’ The fact is, most businesses can benefit from both online and offline viral marketing, and neither one should be ignored.

RECOMMENDATION – View viral marketing in the broadest possible way – recognising that while online viral might spread faster, traditional word of mouth may be viewed as more credible.


81% of consumers will pass on viral content

Not all content goes viral, but research suggests that online – the right content will be shared by some 81% of recipients. Research also, however, that 90% of viral marketing occurs offline – meaning that offline viral marketing should never be ignored. While online viral marketing might be easier, as discussed in the previous missive on this topic, consumers view offline viral marketing as being more credible.

That said, why should businesses invest in viral marketing – online or offline? The answer is relatively simple – it works. Viral marketing, online or offline is essentially referral and referral represents one of the most cost-effective sources of revenue for most businesses. Consider the following statistics:

  • 92% of consumers trust referrals from people they know
  • Consumers referred by a friend arefour times more likely to buy
  • The lifetime value of referred customers is 16% higher than that of non-referred customers
  • Referral leads have a30% higher conversion rate than leads from any other channel


The fact is, referrals generate business at a relatively low cost and referred customers tend to spend more over the lifetime of their relationship with a business. Certainly, referrals from friends can be more effective than referrals from others – but both can drive business cost-effectively. Furthermore, while offline referrals (word of mouth) are viewed as credible by more people, both can be viewed as credible, and both are legitimate forms of referral.

Word of mouth and online viral content are happening every day – whether you control the messaging or not. Research suggests that there are 3.3 billion brand mentions and 2.4 billion brand conversations every day in the US. It makes good sense to manage the message being communicated.

RECOMMENDATION – Facilitate more cost-effective marketing by harnessing the power of both online and offline viral marketing to drive referral rates and customer lifetime value.


9 – 15 recounted a bad experience

‘Research suggests that dissatisfied customers tell between 9 and 15 people about their bad customer experience. Some tell as many as 20 people. The first thing that a business must surely want to control when a message goes viral is that the content is complementary to the achievement of their objectives – true and positive. This hurdle is easier to achieve when the business controls the  content of the message as in blog posts or email. Although, even blog posts have the potential for unfavourable comments.

One of the advantages of online viral marketing is that its efficacy can be tracked more easily than offline word of mouth – the measurement of which tends to rely on reporting through research. In the case of online communication, it is very simple to track ‘likes’, ‘shares’ and comments. Likes, shares and comments are all important. However, the most important in terms of ‘going viral’ is the number of shares – and a critical question when posting content is – ‘why would people share this content?’ It will not go viral if it is not shared. Analysis of comments can be an effective means of developing a better understanding of your audience and changes you might need to make to the messaging or the product.

It is more difficult to track the effectiveness of offline viral marketing. However, it is easy enough to gauge levels of referral by asking each customer what brought them to your business. It can also be monitored by way of formal research. There is good reason to monitor word of mouth:

  • 75% of people don’t believe advertising messages – but 92% believe referrals
  • Word of mouth generates twice as many sales as advertising
  • Referrals are four times more likely to buy than non-referrals


It is difficult to track word of mouth, but it is important to do so.

RECOMMENDATION – As far as possible, control the messages that are communicated offline and online – and while you are at it, track viral and word of mouth rates as closely as possible.


65% find it challenging to engage

One thing that will become evident from reading the articles in this series is that with more and more content being published each day, getting noticed, achieving engagement, and facilitating sharing is becoming much more science than art – although both will always be important.


  • In the month of March 4.4 million blog posts were published every day
  • Over 100 billion messages are shared through Facebook products every day
  • 600 million tweets are sent each day


With all of this noise, it is all too easy to become invisible. That is why most content is ignored.

One study found that 99% of 1.6 million items of content examined achieve no engagement at all. This highlights the fact that it is one thing to post on social media or put a story out there offline – but quite another to ensure it is shared, let alone goes viral. Other studies found that:


It is relatively easy to produce content but much more difficult to produce content that the audience is interested in sharing online or offline. Advertising made communication easy – all you had to do was pay. Social media and word of mouth communication are certainly cheaper than advertising and potentially pays better dividends – but they are not easy. Trust me. After seven years of posting, I know just how hard it is.


It is also difficult to facilitate offline word of mouth – although nonetheless important. Consider:


  • Word of mouth generates twice as many sales as advertising
  • People are four times more likely to buy when referred by a friend
  • 92% of people believe recommendations from friends


But like social media, word of mouth is rarely tracked and is much harder to track. Indeed, the difficulties associated with word of mouth include:


  • Difficulties in tracking and calculating return on investment
  • The slow speed with which it impacts on sales
  • It tends to have a more limited reach than social media
  • It is more difficult to determine any negative impact


Increasingly, we are coming to recognise that effective social media and effective word of mouth marketing are more science than art. We are also discovering that while achieving results from social media and word of mouth is potentially cheaper and more credible than advertising, it is considerably more difficult.


RECOMMENDATION – recognise that both social media and offline word of mouth marketing are sciences that should not be left to rely on creativity or intuition.



Before developing and implementing a strategy to go viral with one or more marketing messages, it is important to know yourself, your audience, and how you can help.


75% of 18 to 24-year-olds and 8% of over 65s

Research suggests that Instagram is a young person’s media. While 75% of people in the US aged 18 – 24 use Instagram, just 8% of people over 65 years use it. In Australia, Instagram is more commonly used by people aged 25 – 34 (33% of all users) and women (57% of all users). For Facebook worldwide, the top line statistics are as follows:

  • 88% of people aged between 18 and 29
  • 84% of people aged between 30 and 49
  • 72% of people aged between 50 and 64
  • 62% of people aged 65 and more


The point is, different social media appeal to and are used by different audiences to varying degrees.

It is important to know your market well enough to understand not just which media platforms they use most often but also:


  • When they use it
  • How they use it


Different audiences used different platforms to varying levels and different times of the day. Some audiences use media like I use Facebook – to post but not read – and it is important to know how your audience uses each platform. Some audiences use LINKED IN to read interesting content while others use it for recruitment and/or sales purposes. It is ideal to target media where your audience actually consumes the content.

It is also important to understand the messages that consumers will notice, engage with, respond to and even share. What types of content will your primary target audience notice, engage with and ultimately share? Few organisations I have worked with can answer this question, any more than they can answer the questions – ‘what will your customers talk to their friends about?’ ‘What ideas and thoughts will your potential customers communicate with their friends and workmates?’

These are critical questions. Some of the answers are addressed in the series of missives that follow.

RECOMMENDATION –  Before preparing a strategy to ‘go viral’ understand the audiences you are targeting, the platforms they use, and the content or messages they will share.



63% of consumers prefer sharing content on private messaging apps

63% of consumers prefer sharing content on private messaging apps and, increasingly, marketers are using these apps to market to their target audiences. This reflects a move by marketers to target smaller and smaller audiences with increasingly customised marketing. Private messaging apps include Messenger, Whatsapp and Instagram – all owned by Facebook.

The trend towards targeting smaller audiences is a reflection of a broader move to more personalised marketing, as reflected in the following statistics:

  • 44% of consumers are likely to repeat purchase after a personalised experience
  • Marketers see an average increase of 20% in sales when using personalised experiences
  • 59% of customers say that personalisation influences their shopping decision


Targeting smaller market segments with increasingly customised messages and using the best possible platforms facilitates marketing that addresses issues and communicates messages that are more likely to be shared more often. The variations from audience to audience might be small, but it can mean the difference between an average outcome and an excellent outcome – recognising that different people can engage with products for different reasons.

Venture capitalist, Mark Cuban asks people seeking funding three initial questions:

  • How small is your market?
  • What is your competitive advantage?
  • Do you understand the customer owns your arse?


Cuban generally invests in businesses that target and can prosper with smaller audiences – enabling a more customised approach to marketing. Fortunately, advances in marketing automation technologies are enabling cost-effective customisation or personalisation.

RECOMMENDATION – Target smaller markets and customise or personalise messages in a way that maximises audience engagement.



56% share multiples times a day

Despite reading hundreds of posts on social media every day, I would share no more than one a day. Why am I sharing so few? This is or should be an important issue for anyone wanting to develop a message or content that ‘goes viral’. Sharing is the key to going viral. Research suggests that, among Facebook users, sharing behaviour can be characterised as follows:

  • Multiple times a day – 56%
  • Every day – 28%
  • A few times a week – 11%
  • Once a week – 3%
  • Once a month or less – 2%


Clearly, some people are more inclined to share than others, and the likelihood on an item of content being shared is more related to the topic and the nature of the content than it is the people involved. The people most likely to share are:

  • Professionals
  • Younger trend followers
  • Social butterflies
  • Do-gooders
  • The discerning


Types of content most likely to be shared include:

  • Infographics
  • Interactive
  • Emotional
  • Visual
  • Lists
  • Newsworthy


To go viral, content needs to be shared. Maximising the rate of sharing requires that the creator of the content understands the audience being targeted (including their propensity to share) and the types of content they are most likely to share. Further, different audiences are inclined to share different types of content. The critical issue is what they think their connections will engage with – so understanding those connections is also important.

I am inclined to share revealing statistics such as infographics, but I am not inclined to share humour, even when it makes me laugh.

RECOMMENDATION – know your audience and their propensity to share. Know what types of content are more likely to be shared by the audience you are targeting and their connections.



Just about every social media contributor and every product manufacturer wants their contributions to go viral, but the fact is – some types of content and products are more likely to go viral than others. It is important to understand what features increase the likelihood of sharing.


68% share to provide a better sense of themselves

Human beings are social animals, and connection is now the number one determinant of life expectancy. As such, social currency is very important. It is also an important driver of sharing on social media and face to face.

Social currency ‘refers to the actual and potential resources from presence in social networks and communities, including both digital and offline.’ It revolves around a human being’s sense of value. Sharing increases where that sharing, online or offline, increases an individual’s sense of value.

The contention is that the more a sharing activity increases an individual’s sense of value – the more likely they are to share, and the more likely content or a product is to go viral.  Content that has the potential to carry social currency will include that which is:

  • Original, unique, or exclusive
  • Relevant to all parties
  • Revealing of the sender
  • Consistent with the recipient’s self-image


To address these issues, it is essential to understand the target audience well. Indeed, research suggests that 68% of people share with a view to providing a better sense of themselves. It is difficult to help people to do this unless you are aware of what their self-image is and how they want to enhance it.

Tapping into social currency can involve:

  • Appearing knowledgeable
  • Leveraging game mechanics with badges and points etc.
  • Making people appear like insiders or part of the in-crowd


Increasing social currency is a powerful tool for facilitating sharing because most human beings want to increase their self-esteem. If sharing content or information, online or offline can improve an individual’s social standing, or the perception thereof, the likelihood or sharing will be higher.

RECOMMENDATION – Post content that addresses the need of human beings to improve their social standing. Share information that people will share because it enhances their self-esteem.



99% of posts receive zero engagement

A study of 1.6 million posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ found that 99% of posts received no engagement at all. In other words, 99% of the posts were not read or shared and, as such, had little or no value to the person or organisation posting. The same might be said of face to face communication. Most messages we hear and most experiences we have – we don’t share.

One of the strategies for increasing the level of engagement and sharing involves leveraging emotional triggers. Emotional triggers involve ‘topics that make us feel uncomfortable. These emotional triggers are telling us which aspects in our life we might feel frustrated or unsatisfied with.’ Leveraging emotional triggers involves recognising that:

  • Happy content gets shared faster and wider than sad content
  • Evoking feelings of awe can surprise you with the number of shares you can get
  • Making the audience angry or fearful
  • Content evoking sadness can also occasionally make an impact


Leveraging emotional triggers requires an understanding of what triggers an emotion and which emotion should be triggered in order to maximise sharing. While this can be complex, it is not hard to understand that content that makes the consumer feel something is far more likely to be shared and that there are some emotions that facilitate sharing more than others. The fact is, many human beings, having felt an emotion, want others to also feel that emotion.

Indeed, this is why people actively recommend movies like ‘Love Actually’ and ‘The Notebook’ to friends. Personally, I would not recommend either movie – but thousands of people after seeing them say to their friends – ‘Have you seen….. – it is brilliant.’ They want their friends to feel the emotions they did.

RECOMMENDATION – Establish the emotional triggers that will make the audience feel something and encourages them to share.



44% of those surveyed endorse a product based on emotional criteria

Research has found that 44% of consumers are more likely to endorse a product based on emotional criteria or an emotional connection. Equally, content on social media is more likely to be shared and go viral if it connects emotionally with the recipient and is likely to have an emotional impact on individuals they choose to share it with.

There are several tools that can be used to create an emotional connection, including:

  • Speaking to the audience directly
  • Unique and valuable insights
  • Humour, compassion, and empathy
  • Picking a side and making a case
  • Asking questions that make recipients think


The fact is, emotions engage and connect human beings more than any other force. Content and ideas that resonate and connect people will be shared more frequently. This is a big part of the reason why quotes are shared so frequently online. It is also why jokes are shared so frequently when people meet face to face. Both quotes and jokes can facilitate an emotional connection. Three powerful approaches to creating an emotional connection are:

  • Bringing an emotional benefit to life
  • Engaging around a shared cause
  • Bonding to the recipient’s life


Emotions that might be tapped into include:

  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Disgust
  • Joy
  • Surprise


RECOMMENDATION: Find the emotions that work best for your brand and tap into them to create an emotional connection that will facilitate sharing.



83% of consumers say recommendations make them more likely to purchase

Research has found that 83% of consumers say that recommendations make them more likely to purchase a product. Recommendations also make consumers more likely to share a post or any information – online or offline. Among other things, this is solid evidence that word of mouth – online or offline – works. This is evidence of the power of social proof.


Social proof, also called social influence, is considered prominent in ambiguous social situations where people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behaviour. It is driven by the assumption that the surrounding people possess more knowledge about the current situation. Social proof is a type of conformity.

Social proof can be manifest in:

  • An expert’s stamp of approval
  • A celebrity endorsement
  • User testimonials
  • Business credentials
  • Earned media
  • Social media shares


Content posted that incorporates social proof is more likely to be shared. Information, ideas and recommendations incorporating social proof are more likely to be shared by word of mouth. Here are some interesting statistics on social proof:

  • 88% of consumers trust user reviews as much as personal recommendations.
  • Third-party logos on a company website can increase conversion by as much as 400%
  • Influencer marketing is the fastest-growingconsumer-acquisition channel.
  • The average consumer reads ten online reviews before making a purchase decision.
  • 57% of consumers will only buy or use a business service if it has at least a 4-star rating.
  • 50% of all consumers immediately visit a website after reading a positive review


RECOMMENDATION – Embrace the power of social proof. Leverage it where possible to facilitate sharing both online and offline.



54% of social browsers use social media to research products

Research suggests that 54% of social media users use social media channels to undertake research. That is, they are seeking practical information – information they can use to make decisions. This serves to highlight the importance and power of practical value in determining whether a post will be engaged with or shared. The same is true for word of mouth in the offline environment – where information with practical value is more readily shared.

When I go to write a blog or produce a video on marketing, one of the first questions I ask myself is – ‘what action might each reader or viewer be inclined to take after reading or listening?’ While I recognise that many readers and viewers will take no action at all, for one or more of a range of reasons, my objective is to ensure that each post contains actionable information that can add value to the reader’s or viewer’s decision making. This is why my blogs and videos end with one or more ‘recommendations’.

Content with practical value might include:

  • Blogs with actionable recommendations
  • How-to webinars and video presentations
  • Interactive posts leading to specific action
  • Compilations of tips representing specific action


Research suggests that actionable content is better read and more frequently shared. Word of mouth also works more efficiently when it offers practical solutions to the issues confronting the target audience. It is, of course, important that the practical action is relevant to the audience and easily accessed.

RECOMMENDATION – Make your content as practical and actionable as possible – including specific recommendations for specific actions the audience can take.



135% greater organic reach than photo posts

Research has found that video on Facebook has a 135% greater reach than photographs. This, in part, reflects the fact that video is the fastest-growing medium on social media and the internet. This also highlights the importance of storytelling – which, for many, is more easily accomplished in a video than in words. Storytelling is also a rapidly growing trend in marketing.

Other research findings relevant to storytelling include:

  • 80% of people want brands to tell a story
  • 64% of people think brands are good at telling stories
  • 66% of people like stories about regular people


These statistics point to the importance of storytelling and the importance of the stories being relevant to the individuals consuming them. There are many reasons why storytelling needs to be a priority for facilitating social media sharing and word of mouth. These include:

  • Stories are more engaging and memorable than facts
  • Stories are more effective in establishing an emotional connection
  • Stories have been found to facilitate learning more than facts


Tips for effective storytelling include:

  • Focus on the interests and concerns the audience
  • Write to the audience and use relatable language
  • Make the content intriguing and memorable
  • Use the medium best suited to telling the story
  • Demonstrate personality the audience relates to
  • Reflect human values – especially those of the audience
  • Incorporate a hero and a journey where possible


Human beings like stories. Our lives and our community are built on them. There have always been and will remain a powerful mode of communication.

RECOMMENDATION – Remember that humans love stories. Use stories to convey a message in a way that makes it easy and likely to be spread far and wide.



Getting a message to go viral on social media or through word of mouth usually requires strategy. Ensuring that messaging continually goes viral most certainly require a strategy. This is particularly so in the early stages when the individual, business or brand does not have an established following. This section of this IDEA addresses some of these strategies.


63% of marketers intend to increase their influencer marketing budget

There are those who will suggest that the use of influencers in marketing is an innovation. Clearly, it is not. While the use of influencers in social media is relatively new, as indeed is social media, celebrities and other high-profile influencers have been used in advertising for the best part of 100 years. That said, the use of influencers to encourage messages to go viral is experiencing rapid growth in 2020. Research suggests that 63% of marketers intend to increase their influencer marketing budget over the next 12 months.

Influencer marketing, and especially influencer marketing using social media, can be very effective in facilitating the rapid spread of messages. Consider:

  • 67% of marketing and communications professionals engage with influencers for content promotion
  • Nearly 40% of Twitter users say they’ve made a purchase as a direct result of a Tweet from an influencer
  • 70% of teenage YouTube subscribers say they relate to YouTube creators more than traditional celebrities


Instagram is by far the most popular influencer channel in 2020 – with one survey finding that – ‘79% of respondents consider Instagram important for their influencer marketing campaigns. Facebook came a distant second at 46%, followed by YouTube at 36%.’ Further, 77% of fashion micro-influencers prefer Instagram.

Whatever channel is used – online or offline – influencers can be very effective in ensuring a message goes viral. Features to consider in identifying the optimal influencer include:

  • The number of followers they have
  • The profile of their audience
  • The performance of recent posts
  • The engagement rate of their posts
  • The influencer’s alignment with your brand
  • The authenticity of the influencer and their posts


Budget is also important. However,  in this regard, there are options – including influencers with mega audiences and those with much smaller micro audiences. When the budget is limited ‘micro-influencers’ can be a good option.

RECOMMENDATION – Consider using influencers or micro-influencers to spread your messages far and wide. Such influencers can help a message go viral both online and offline.



3 times per week minimum for Facebook

Research suggests that if you are using Facebook, you need to post at least three times per week. In most cases, it is ideal to post new content. However, there is also benefit in:

  • Reposting existing content
  • Posting curated content


It would be absurd to suggest that every time you post on social media – all of the recipients engage with your post. They do not – as the data clearly shows. There is, therefore, merit in repeat posting content if you lack the time or ideas to continually develop new content.

My experience suggests that it is wasteful not to use each post at least twice. Research suggests that the number of times a post can be used varies by platform. The data suggests that:

  • On Twitter, posts can be repeated six or more times
  • On Facebook, posts should be repeated once a month
  • On Google+ posts can be repeated after a week and again after a month


Clearly, the ideal frequency of repetition will also depend on the quality of the content – but the point is that you should not be afraid of repeating a post.

Posting curated content is also an option, where that content supports your original posts and facilitates communication of your overall messaging. Indeed, if the content is entirely compatible with your original content – curated content can represent third party verification.

My experience suggests that curated posts can be effective in supporting original content. It is important, however, not to rely too heavily on curated content. A balance is required.

Word of mouth is less structured, and messages can be communicated continually over an extended period. Bear in mind, however, that traditional word of mouth takes time to spread and pay dividends.

RECOMMENDATION – Don’t be afraid of repeating posts on social media or about using curated content to reinforce the points made in original content.




50% drop in engagement from multiple posts

Research suggests that posting more than once a day on Facebook reduces engagement by 50%. It is ideal not to post too frequently, but it is also important to post consistently over an extended period. Ensuring your messaging goes viral is a long-term project. For most people and organisations, it takes time for messages to start going viral, and going viral once is not enough. Consistency is important – as is having a schedule that drives consistency.

Your schedule also needs to take account of the fact that it is also important not to post too often. Research suggests that the ideal frequency of posting varies by platform, as follows:

  • Linked IN is most effective at 3 to 10 times per week
  • Google+ is most effective at 3 to 10 times per week
  • Facebook should occur 3 to 7 times per week
  • Twitter should occur 5 to 20 times per day


Donald Trump is almost certainly a better authority on Twitter than me. Suffice to say here that the statistics for Twitter highlight the varying time requirements for the various platforms.

Ensuring your messaging is spread far and wide requires building a social media following. In my experience, building a following will take most individuals, businesses, and brands at least 12 months. Sometimes it takes longer. Further, the time it takes to build a following will depend on the consistency of posting and following. Consistent posting – at least daily – depending on the platform, over 12 months will be the minimum requirement for most individuals and organisations.

To ensure consistent posting on social media:

  • Determine the optimal frequency of posting
  • Develop a schedule of relevant topics
  • Identify the formats posting will use
  • Schedule the posts over the required period


Few things limit the long-term impact of social media or the potential for going viral than a lack of consistency.

RECOMMENDATION – Develop a list of topics and a programme of posting that ensures consistency of exposure and messaging over at least 12 months.



60% challenged by producing engaging content

Research suggests that 60% of marketers find the creation of engaging content to be challenging – with some finding it very challenging indeed, particularly when there is a requirement for frequent and consistent posting or publication. Responding to this challenge and the desire for content to go viral, many marketers are now using co-creation, i.e. working with one or more other parties to create content that will be of interest to audiences and is likely to be shared.

Two or more organisations targeting the same audience might work together to develop optimal content on a casual or ongoing basis. The advantages of this approach include:

  • Gaining access to each other’s audiences
  • Gaining access to each other’s ideas
  • Exploiting the ‘two heads are better than one’ philosophy
  • Exploiting the ‘many hands make light work’ philosophy


Assuming the parties are not direct competitors, content co-creation offers the potential to leverage each other’s intellectual property, ideas, expertise, and resources to:

  • Post consistently
  • Access more databases
  • Utilise more channels
  • Tell more interesting stories
  • Add more value to audiences


Content co-creation is relatively easy to organise, manage, and resource. It delivers tangible benefits to individuals, organisations and their audiences. Best of all, it can increase significantly – the potential for going viral.

RECOMMENDATION – Have a close look at the potential for working with other individuals or organisations to develop higher quality content with greater potential to go viral.



1760 is the optimal number of words

One study found that the optimal length for a blog post is 1760 words. That same research suggests that a blog post should not be less than 300 words. Another study found that the optimal length for a blog post is between 800 and 1551 words (very specific indeed). Yet another study suggested that the optimal length of a blog is 2100 words. Other research has looked at the ideal length for a social media video – finding that it varies by the platform as follows:

  • Facebook – less than 2 minutes
  • Twitter – 30 seconds
  • Instagram – 60 seconds
  • YouTube – 2 minutes


While there are varying views and a lack of absolute certainty regarding the optimal length for any social media post, it is clear that the ideal length:

  • Varies by platform
  • Changes over time
  • Depends on the subject
  • Depends on the audience


Also clear is the following:

  • There is considerable merit in testing various lengths to see which one works best
  • It is important to get to the point as quickly as possible


It used to be a maxim in journalism that, when reading a newspaper, most people do not read past the third paragraph. As a result, the core of the story had to be told in those three paragraphs. With the increased amount of content available – it is likely that audiences will give posts less time today than at any time in the past. If the core of the message is not evident immediately – it is very unlikely to be shared. This perhaps explains the effectiveness of infographics and other posts that get to the point instantly.

I have tested various post lengths, tracked engagement, and asked the audience how much time they will give me. I have found that they will give me less and less time. It might be different for you, but this highlights the benefits of testing.

RECOMMENDATION – test the optimal length for your social media posts and ensure that you get to the point as quickly as possible. Consider infographics that get to the point instantly.



51% re-tweet when asked to clearly

A recent study found that audiences are more likely to share a social media post when asked to. One study looked at Twitter, testing three options. The findings follow:

  • Request – ‘Please re-tweet’ – 51% re-tweeted
  • Request – ‘Please RT’ – 39% re-tweeted
  • No request – 12% re-tweeted


This research, along with other studies, suggests that asking people to share a post on social media will increase the chances of the post going viral. There are several other practical tactics to increase the likelihood of a post or word of mouth message being shared:

  • Make the content easy to share
  • Incorporate images in posts
  • Use strong audience-focused headlines
  • Offer incentives to engage and share
  • Use the language of the audience


There are several strategies that can be used to increase the likelihood that a post will be shared. These practical insights are as applicable to word of mouth as social media posting. This again highlights the science involved in ensuring your message goes viral.

RECOMMENDATION – Remember to ask people to share your content or messages with other people they think might be interested.



Going viral is becoming increasingly important. It is also becoming increasingly difficult. Following are some tips to ensure your messages will go viral, online or offline.



42% say their content is effective

Research suggests that in the B2B environment, just 42% of marketers believe their content marketing is effective. In the B2C environment, around 43% of marketers believe their strategy is effective. It seems reasonable to suggest that this is a less than acceptable result.

Perhaps the most significant failing – reducing the effectiveness of content – is a result of the propensity to place quantity ahead of quality. This is a mistake I am almost certain I have made in 2020. It is also a mistake I plan to rectify in 2020. The desire to post each day can all too easily override the need to develop the highest possible quality content. And yet, to the audience, quality will almost always be more important than quantity. Of course, even with the intention of publishing quality content, we are faced with the question of what represents quality. What does quality look like?

Successful practitioners suggest that quality content is:

  • Relevant – to the needs and interest of the audience
  • Meaningful – adding real value
  • Insightful – looking beyond the obvious
  • Dynamic – responsive to a changing world
  • Actionable – able to be applied


I have tried to satisfy these criteria in each post – but have not always been as successful as I would have hoped. That will change for me in 2021 – and if you want your messages to go viral, it will be essential that you put quality ahead of quantity. In 2021, I will ask about each and every post – is it – relevant, meaningful, insightful, dynamic, and actionable?

It should be noted that not only will poor quality content not be shared – but, over time, it will have the effect of teaching the audience that your content is not a priority.

RECOMMENDATION – ensure that all of the content you post is relevant, meaningful, insightful, dynamic and actionable. Always put quality ahead of quantity.



5 cows – but just one talked about

In his book Purple Cow author Seth Godin, pointed to the importance of being remarkable. If you were driving along the road and saw a brown cow, who would you tell?  Probably no-one. If you drove a little further and say a black cow, who would you tell? Probably no one. If you drove still further and saw a black and white cow, who would you tell? Probably no-one. It you drove still further and saw a purple cow, who would you tell? Probably everyone!

The point here is that we talk about things that are remarkable. Good or bad, we spread experiences that are remarkable. Happy or sad, we tell our friends about the remarkable. A brown cow is not remarkable so why would you tell anyone that you have seen one. A purple cow is most certainly remarkable – and as such you would probably tell anyone who would listen (and potentially believe you). A more practical example might be a restaurant. Would you tell anyone about a mediocre or unremarkable restaurant? Who you tell you friends about a food court you just visited? Almost certainly no. No one talks about mediocre restaurants or food courts.

The messages that spread fastest and widest are those that are remarkable. Indeed, the route of the word remarkable is – to be worthy of a remark. This is the case both online and offline. Factors central to making a story remarkable include:

  • Embedding a hook – possible incorporated in the headline
  • Being insightful – offering an insight that has not been offered before
  • Setting up a strong climax – that brings the story together
  • Using humour – and especially humour that surprises
  • Demonstrating humanity – in a way that the audience relates to


The key point is that what ever you need to do – be remarkable. Leave the audience with a thought, idea, feeling or insight they will want to tell others about

RECOMMENDATION – Be remarkable. Ensure that your messaging online and offline is such that people will want to tell as many people as possible


40 years researching marshmallows at Stanford University

More than 40 years ago research at Stanford University considered whether children when offered a marshmallow, would reject it in favour of receiving 2 marshmallows in 15 minutes time. This and a host of other studies testing a variety of demographic profiles has considered the propensity of human beings to delay gratification. This research has consistently led to two findings:

  • Most human beings are reluctant to delay gratification
  • Humans who are prepared to delay gratification tend to achieve more in life


While both are important findings, it is the first that this missive focuses on – because it highlights the extent to which human beings live in the now and are focused on getting a return now. It adds to the body of interest suggesting that:

  • Yesterday is of little interest
  • Today is of enormous interest
  • Tomorrow is of limited interest


As far as creating and communicating messages that will spread – it is important to focus on the now and benefits that can be derived sooner rather than later. This explains why humans are not inclined to read history books or invest any more than they have to in superannuation. One is in the past and the other is in the future – and the interest in is the now – instant gratification. Research suggests that social media has only served to increase the focus on the present and instant gratification.

The implications of this for messaging you want to go viral are clear:

  • Communication information relevant to now
  • Suggest action that can be taken now
  • Interpret things that are happening now


RECOMMENDATION – Create messages that have resonance and application now. Recognise that human beings have limited interest in the future and even less in the past.


66% more qualified leads from video

Video was once an interesting option in social media. It is now an important option and will soon be the only viable option. Research suggests that:

  • Video generates 66% more leads in a year
  • 88% of marketers view You Tube as the most effective platform
  • 82% of global internet traffic will come from video streaming by 2022


Research has found that:


The facts are:

  • Video can paint a more vivid picture than words
  • Audiences are lazy and video is easy
  • Video is easy to share and is shared more often


Fortunately, research suggests that while quality video production has its place, quality productions are not necessary in all or even most circumstances – and in fact, amateur video can be very impactful indeed. Certainly, the sharing of video content is not generally dependent on the quality of the video. What is clear however is the power of video in the social media environment.

RECOMMENDATION – If you want your content shared, use video. Understand that video is the medium of the 2020’s and will become the dominant medium for going viral


10 – 9 – 8 – 7 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – humans love lists

The Rich List is one of the most read and talked about features in the Financial Review each year. This is because it taps into two things human beings relate to:

  • Money
  • Lists


The focus here is the second thing humans relate to – lists. We have all seen lists like, the:

  • 10 most influential people in Australia
  • 9 deadliest animals in Australia
  • 8 leys to living a longer life
  • 7 reasons why relationships break up
  • 6 things to eat this summer
  • 5 places to visit in 2021
  • 4 drugs of choice among Australians
  • 3 reasons why lists facilitate going viral


The three reasons lists are more likely to go viral that a narrative are:

  • Lists seem to offer a comprehensive solution
  • Lists are easier to read and consume
  • Lists are easier to remember and communicate


The fac t is, human beings tend to like lists and are generally more likely to share lists than narratives.

RECOMMENDATION – Convert your narrative content into a list. Use list to make your content more likely to be read, easier to consume and more likely to be shared.


Going viral – online or offline is arguably the most effective and cost-efficient approach to generating enquiries – and it is most certainly the most effective approach to generating enquiries that can and will be converted. This is highlighted in research that found:


All of that said, there is enormous clutter out there. More anymore content is being published. More and more attention is being paid to word of mouth communication. But effective going viral on social media or offline is increasingly a science. That science needs to be embraced.

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