9 Secrets To Successful Facebook Viral Marketing

Viral marketing has become almost a cliché because so many companies talk about it it, yet many campaigns fail. But Momentus Media has a more systematic approach to it and a successful track record on Facebook.

So I interviewed the company’s co-founder, Chris Turitzin, about his nine secrets to successful viral marketing on Facebook.

Nine Secrets of Viral Marketing On Facebook

  1. Click rate * share rate = viral index
  2. Create an instant emotional response
  3. Cater to 100 percent of the population
  4. Make me look sexy
  5. Amplify my emotions
  6. Affiliate with a brand of higher resonance
  7. Give stuff away
  8. Make a baby with the user
  9. Follow the collective conscious

How did you guys get started in viral marketing on Facebook?

A couple years ago, everyone was saying the word viral but people didn’t know how to achieve it. It was seen as a hit-or-miss art rather than a reproducible science. We had distinct principles behind why the viral apps we’d built had gone viral. We developed principles to develop viral campaigns through novel ideas and app design.

How does this work with specific clients?

What we do is dissect a brand and find out what’s shareable about it. Sometimes it’s harder than others. Sometimes the entire brand is shareable, and others it’s just a brand attribute. It’s our job to find what exactly about a brand will get fans sharing.

For example, the Black Eyed Peas had these cute 8-bit avatars, and people were using photoshop to make their own. We thought it would it explode if we made it easier for them to make their own 8-bit avatars.

Over two months, four million people engaged with the app and two million created avatars. The impressions count was probably in the billions. People were sharing in the stream and changing their avatars, and it was all branded Black Eyed Peas.

We sometimes tell our customers to affiliate with a charity, celebrity, sporting event, etc… People get excited about these things and love sharing about them. For successful viral marketing, your brand has to be comfortable with the idea of not only telling the brand story but of telling the story your fans want to share.

I think we’re in the midst of a transformation of the stories brands want to tell. We’re going from top-down ideas to ‘here’s something interesting funny or insightful or cool thing we did, do you want to engage or share it?’

What makes a good viral marketing idea?

Contests and sweepstakes are somewhat viral and get you views, but not so much with fans. The Intel Museum of Me was a great app- it pulled your profile data and created a scrolling animation of your content. It wasn’t about Intel but was classy and futuristic, which is what their advertising is about. They decided this would be a compelling shareable piece of content with both personal and brand relevance.

What we do is find these highly shareable pieces of content that create a burning desire to share — there’s no option — your emotions are screaming “I have to share this.”

Are these viral Facebook apps more effective when they’re simpler?

What you want is the most simple app up to the point of sharing, then after that it can be as complicated as you want. A viral index combines share rate and click rate. Share rate is the percentage of people that enter the app that will share. Click rate is how many will click on it in the stream.

viral marketing loop on facebook

We did a breast cancer awareness campaign where people could post pink ribbons on their profile — it went through the roof with 75 percent share rates. The click rate was 1.5 clicks per story, and .75 * 1.5 = 1.125. It’s viral because it’s greater than one. It’s going to keep reproducing.

You have two goals with viral apps — to make it go viral and to convert on business goals. Virality is hard enough to achieve that you don’t want to muddy it up with the business goals. For example, if you had to give email before sharing the pink ribbon, it wouldn’t go viral. You can put the email request after sharing. After the sharing happens, businesses can get emails, likes, and website visitors.

What if you can’t afford to work with Momentus Media?

We have a couple free products for small businesses. But there’s a prerequisite for virality which is novelty. People don’t share what they’ve seen 100 times before. You’ve seen a contest before. You’ve seen an iPad 2 giveaway. You’re not going to tell your friends about it. Maybe if you give away a million dollars it’ll get shared. When we do a contest of sweepstakes we push the excitement level to make it more than the average contest.

For virality to happen, it has to be a novel piece of content no one has seen before. It has to be custom and this is usually more expensive than a small business can afford. We think we can make any business viral but most of them just don’t have the budget.

However, small non-profits have passionate bases and we have a free app called Badges that lets you post virtual badges on Facebook. A couple of thousand businesses use that. If people are highly motivated, e.g. in the case of animal shelters — saving animals is one of the most viral things in the world. It’s a highly emotional subject. Everyone agrees that animals should be saved. It’s easy to make animal-related content go viral.


Are you ever surprised by what works in viral marketing?

I often see content built by someone else that I don’t think will be viral, but it turns out to be.

I’m not a professional on viral video, and I’m often surprised by it. What we do is create methods of sharing and engaging content — we don’t create funny content. We create smooth, compelling ways to share content.

We’re good at defining goals and projecting. We don’t promise four million users for everyone.

What are some factors that make a viral app suceed or fail?

Some companies with a lot of fans have trouble reaching them and also getting more fans, so they’ll start a new Facebook page as a refresh. From a viral app perspective, a fresh page with no fans is much more likely to explode virally than an existing page.

You need a client who will accept this isn’t 100 percent about your brand. Are they willing to take a risk and try something more innovative?

Sweeps and contests are pretty standard and more proven. A lot of times people starting out want that. They’ll do something more exciting later on.

Once we gauge the client, we provide an appropriate set of solutions — a set of ideas that ranges from safe to far out. Some of the musicians we’ve worked with love the far out stuff because they want to make a really big splash and they have a huge audience. Some of the more traditional companies will try simpler more straightforward things.

Can you measure the return on investment of these viral apps?

On the topic of ROI for viral apps, I think we’re not there yet, but it will be in the next one or two years — it depends on the industry. People are just figuring out the techniques of social engagement and the next year is applying them, making them more contextual and real world. A brick -and-mortar store will bring them in and convert them. A product company might have social packaging. I think we’re sowing the seeds for that. We’re excited to work with more offline brands to get that ROI.

What we have seen is e-tailers are making money on Facebook because their product sale is so close to the point of social engagement. We have clients that have quantified how much a like is worth to them, so they can easily justify the spend on a viral app if we project it will get them say 100,000 fans.

Every company seems to need a at least a year to hang out on their Facebook page and figure it out. At the point where you focus on ROI tends to be maybe two years down the road.

Brian Carter is chief executive officer of FanReach and author of How To Get More Fans On Facebook.

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