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Understanding Viral Content

Lesson 2 of 5

Understanding Virality

Daysha Veronica (Edewi)

Understanding Viral Content

Daysha Veronica (Edewi)

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Lesson Info

2. Understanding Virality


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1 Class Introduction Duration:07:33
2 Understanding Virality Duration:23:38

Lesson Info

Understanding Virality

I have a lot to get through today, so first we're going to go through what does it mean to go viral. I'm going to share with you how I think about virality. Okay. So I am a huge word nerd. I studied Latin in high school, and one of the things I really loved about Latin is that I got a really good value for the etymology or the background of words. I think that it's so important to understand the context of words, especially co-opted words because there's lot of hidden value that can live in the original context of the word. So does anybody have an idea as to what this is? You can shout it out. Virus. Virus, yes, love it. So virus, viral is a derivative of the word virus. And so it's a foreign agent that injects itself into your cells and spreads rapidly within you with a goal of infecting as many cells as possible. So when we think about viral online, it has a similar concept. It's injecting content into the Internet social media ecosystem, so as to spread rapidly. Would you say th...

at's about right? Uh uh, there's something missing. So looking at that definition, what do you think was missing from my paraphrased phrase? People, okay. Process. Infect, look at you, yes. Okay so infecting, this idea of infecting was missing from my paraphrased definition. So when we go back it is to gain virality for your content. It is injecting content into the Internet social media ecosystem, so as to impact as many people as possible, so as to spread rapidly. So when we think about virality online, that idea of infection is what I would call impact. And so virality isn't just about putting your work out there, which I think is a very common conception. You know if I just spread my work far and wide then that will mean that my work can go viral. It really is about this idea of infecting or really impacting people. So by show of hands again, how many of you have ever tried using Instagram ads or Facebook boosted posts to promote your content? Okay, now keep your hands up. So for those of you that have tried, could you give me a thumbs up if you feel like it's working for you. A thumbs in the middle if you feel like I don't really know yet. And then a thumbs down if you're like I just I don't think it's doing much of anything for me. Okay, we got one thumb's up, but most people they don't feel like it's doing anything for you. And so one of the reasons for that is because with boosted posts what you're doing is you're increasing the spread. And so when we go back to that original definition of the virus, you're just increasing the chances for exposure, but you're not really telling people, you're not really creating that infection. So exposure does not create the infection or the impact. You have to do that through the work. So when we think about how a virus moves through our bodies, a virus doesn't go and just infect every single little cell. What it does, it infects one cell and that compromised cell goes and infects other cells. And that's how it's able to move so rapidly throughout us. And so the same concept can be applied online. To get your content to spread organically and rapidly, you really want to have work that impacts people so that they feel compelled to do the work for you in terms of sharing it and boosting its visibility. So the question you want to be asking yourself when you're putting work out now is, am I putting forth work that will infect or impact the people that view it? Because I believe that the greater the impact of your work, the faster your work will spread. And not the other way around. However, I'm sure some of you see that there's an asterisk there. And so one of the reasons for that is because of these lovely ladies, the Kardashians. So it is totally possible to over saturate a market with your content and build an audience that way. And that's what I would call the Kardashian effect. So the Kardashians have increased the likelihood of content about them going viral because they use their power and their privilege to be an omnipresent force. So the Kardashians, whether we like it or not, are always kind of in the back of our heads and that's largely because there's always something out there about them. They have their websites, their apps, their tv shows, all that kind of stuff. So the thing about the Kardashian effect though is that it can be kind of risky because it costs a lot of money. So the Kardashians have a lot of capital, like I said, they have their apps, their websites, their stuff like that. So they can afford to boost their content out there and wait for the time for people to bite. Most of us don't. The other thing to keep in mind is that you're not always going to build a genuine audience. So when I think about my relationship with the Kardashians, you know, I'll read it. I'll admit that, they're my little guilty pleasure. However, I don't, I'm not looking for them, right. So I'll read it because it's there, I'm like why not. But I'm not necessarily genuinely desiring their content. So the minute that their content disappears, I'm going to be like okay, it's time for another guilty pleasure. And so one of the ways in which you want to work on building your audience is by having them crave your content. If they crave your content and they're looking for your content, that means that there will be a higher likelihood for its visibility. And then the other thing to keep in mind is that with more people there's always potentially more hate. You know you run the risk of people wanting to troll you just because you're always there, just like how they troll the Kardashians because they're always there. You just want to keep that in mind. So it's possible, but I wouldn't necessarily say that's the best way to go about it. So with all that, this is now my definition for how I think about virality online. So it's creating engaging and impactful content, usually on a trend or conversation, that causes this content to be rapidly circulated amongst a wide body of people in a short period of time. My mouth just did a mile, like. So to break that down for everyone because Lord knows I need it. It's creating engaging and impactful content, this idea of rapid circulation, and it happening in a short period of time. So those three chunks represent three core concepts that I feel like make up virality. So the first is reach, which represents the shares and the views of your content. There's time, and then relevancy. So I would say the first two are the most commonly known principles of virality. Most people know that in order for your content to be considered viral, it needs to reach a wide body of people in a short period of time. But I would say it's this third concept of relevancy that's not put to the forefront enough, and that it is the key to increase organic visibility. So when I think about relevancy, it's content that speaks to your audience's wants, desires, and needs. And it's packaged in a fresh, compelling, and irresistible way. And I would say it's mastering this core concept that has gotten me my view count of well over half a billion views. Alright, so now I want to dig a little bit deeper into each concept. So when we think about reach, the question you want to be asking yourself is what can I do to give my content maximum exposure? And so there's three things that you want to keep in mind when you're strategizing for reach. It's platform strategy, distribution strategy, and partnership strategy. So when we think about platform strategy, it's basically asking yourself, what are the best places to put your content on? Where are the places where your content has the best chance to perform? And I'm sure a lot of you are wondering, well I don't know, how do I figure that out? So part of how you do that is by doing you research. So I love this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, learn from the mistakes of others because you can't live long enough to make all the mistakes yourself. And I truly hold myself to that. So when we think about doing our research, it's two fold. It's looking into the people that you have the online success that you're looking for. As well as looking into the people that you want to impact, so your ideal audience. So when we're looking into the people that have the online success that you want, what you really want to be looking at in terms of platforms is what platforms are they on? Are they on Instagram, Twitter, or Tumbler? Or are they on YouTube, or Facebook, or Twitter? There is a lot of thought and planning that goes into the particular platforms that people are on, so they've pretty much already done the work for you in that way. The other thing you want to be thinking about is how many platforms are they on? So there's this methodology that we need to be on every single platform that exists in order for our content to be seen by everybody, and you will kill yourself doing that because as I will go over a little bit later, there are certain rules of engagement in how you want to modify your content so that it speaks to those people in the way in which they are used to receiving their content on each platform. So it really is being strategic about what platforms you're on and how many of them that you're on. So the thing about doing this process, which I call modeling, is that a lot of people get nervous about oh I don't want to copy, you know. That's my competitor, I don't want to make it seem like I'm biting off of them. And I feel that. But so in my mind, the way that I think about it is that modeling is such a crucial step and you want to remember that Eleanor Roosevelt quote, that there's not enough time in our lives to repeat the mistakes that others may have gone through. And so when you're critically adding your perspective, that is where the innovation comes through. It's looking at the path that maybe your competitors saw, but maybe chose not to take. So, because I cannot tell you how annoying it is to have people basically reinvent the wheel. So we all know that this is sliced bread, right. So if somebody tried to come to me and say, you know, I know that there's sliced bread, but I actually have this thing that I'm working on, it's called slivered bread. You would look at them like they were crazy. No, that's pretty much sliced bread, right. And so the thing with this is that you want to remember that just because sliced bread exists, doesn't meant that there aren't other areas for innovation. And so there's areas for innovation in the flavor, in the texture, in the presentation, thicker slices versus thinner slices. And so you really want to be asking yourself when you're in this research process and you're trying to model but still maintain your own voice, again, what is your competition not looking at? Where is there potential audience where they're dying to have something, but they're not being serviced? And that's your area of opportunity. And I have a really great story for that later. So in addition to that, you also want to be thinking critically about where is your audience. So when I was building my lifestyle website, one of the things I decided to do, so I was a psych minor in college as well, so I love research. And I did just a very simple Google form survey that I asked people to fill out. And I think that the best way in which you can know your audience and what they want so that you're giving them what you want is literally just by asking them. And they'd be so excited to tell you. And so when I asked my audience, where did they spend most of their time, as you can see a huge chunk of them said that Instagram is where they spend their time. And the next chunk is Facebook, and then Snapchat and Twitter. And so now when I think about where I spend most of my time online, I'm on Instagram because they told me that that's where they want me to find them. So in an ideal world when we're thinking about the platforms that you're going to be on, you want to be right here in this nice little sweet spot where you have elements of the people that you want to become because then you can look at the types of content that they're promoting and you can use what they're promoting as a platform for you to emulate off of. Then you also want to be where your audience is at because they are the ones that are going to elevate your content. And then lastly, you also want to have, be on platforms where you feel comfortable being on it and promoting it and understanding how it works. But I would have to say at the end of the day you always want to make sure that you're on the platforms that your audience tells you that they're on because again, they are the ones that are going to increase the visibility of your content at the end of the day. And so you always want to make sure that you cater to them. So I think a good example would be, so for my lifestyle site, I am on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. And so I'm sure some of you might wonder, well why aren't you on Snapchat because more people indicated Snapchat? So the reason why I chose Twitter was because I'm more comfortable on it and the features of Snapchat are features that are also on Instagram through Instagram stories. So for me it didn't really make sense to be on a platform that I didn't like. So the next platform they indicated was Twitter. So that's why this data is very helpful, because it helps you to make informed decisions like that. Okay, so story time. So I've been reading this book called Talks Like Ted, and in it there's a man who shares his story about his Ted talk, his name is Howard Moskowitz. And he was hired Campbell's, which is the company that makes Prego. And he was hired to make a competing spaghetti sauce to Ragu. And so through testing and iterating and doing his research, he figured out that there were a third of Americans that wanted an extra chunky sauce. And at the time, there wasn't an extra chunky sauce available. And so by doing his research and acutely understanding the needs of his audience, he was able to help Prego develop an extra chunky sauce line that went on sell $600 million dollars in 10 years. So I hope that that story can show you how important it is, especially when we think about virality, how thorough research is key in this process. So the next thing you want to be thinking about when we think about reach is your distribution strategy. And so you want to be thinking about how can I best optimize my content for the platform that I'm using. So I'm going to go a little bit more in depth in the second chapter about this, but like I was saying, there are definitely, there's psychology and rules of engagement, so you want to make sure that your content is optimized for each of those platforms in order to do its best. And then lastly you want to be thinking about partnership strategy, and these are basically thinking critically about who are the ideal organizations or bloggers or influencers to share your content with to push its exposure. So influencers are great people to build an authentic audience with, however, it's again, you want to be thinking about aligning yourself with people who speak to the content that you're making. You don't just want to go to people who have a high following. Because most people, if you go to someone that has a high following, the audience will know that this isn't genuine, and they'll usually scroll past it. And that will be a huge waste of money and time for you. Alright so the next concept we're thinking about is time. And so with time you want to be thinking, how quickly can you get a lot of people to pay attention to your content? So with time it's all about rapid circulation that we're measuring. So for example, if you have a piece of content that got 100k shares in a year, I wouldn't consider that viral. It's still an amazing accomplishment, but content naturally collects shares and views over time. However if you do get something that's 100k shares in three days, that would definitely be considered as viral because it shows that through a short length of time you've reached a wide body of people. And so my suggestion so that you can kind of get a gauge about the time because time also is a nice indicator of impact, it would be to set a virality benchmark period. So usually three to seven days post release is a good period. And that's because it will allow you to accurately judge the performance of older content verses your content. So like I said before, if you release something, let's say I release something and it's been out for a year and then I had something come out a week ago, it's kind of hard to measure both, to perform, excuse me. It's kind of hard to judge the performance of both of those together because the one that's been out longer theoretically could have more views on it because of the time in which it's been out. But every single piece of content that you make will always have a first three days or first seven days. So that will give you an idea as to how your content is really hitting the first chunk of time that it really comes out. And then the last concept that we're thinking about is relevancy. So the question you want to ask is, what compels people to watch your content in this moment right now? So not in five minutes, not in an hour, not tomorrow, but right now. So I believe on the Internet there are three types of videos that exist. So there are the videos that we scroll past immediately, there are the videos that we say oh you know this seems pretty cool, but not right now. I'll put it in my saved video and I'll never go back to it. Real, right. And then there are the videos that we will watch immediately. And it is the videos that are immediately consumed that have the highest likelihood to go viral. And so one of the reasons for that I believe is because it's content that aims to make your consumers life easier, better, and more bearable. And so in my mind that means it could speak to a hidden truth, it enlightens people, maybe it changes their perspective on something. It provokes nostalgia or the feel good emotions. But regardless of that, its content that serves a purpose, creates value, and or inspires growth in the person that's watching it. So here's a thing, not a lot of people care, or not a lot of people share or create with their audience in mind. A lot of people are more so thinking about how does their work speak to them as an artist and wife. What are they trying to get out of it? How do they want people to see them? And it really does have to be a balance. Because we live in a scrolling culture, we are so over innovated with content that people are looking for any excuse to scroll past something. And so if it doesn't speak to them, they're pretty much not going to want to engage with it. And so if your goal is virality or increased visibility, then it really has to be something that feels like it fits into their life. So again, you want to be thinking, how does the content that I am sharing with my audience fit into their lives? So one of the ways in which you can do that are through either looking through current events and trending topics or you can look through omnipresent cultural conversations. And so omnipresent cultural conversations is essentially a term that I made up to say, things that, they're always kind of in the back of our mind. And usually trending topics will bring them to the forefront, but it's not like we ever really stop thinking about them. They just kind of get pushed back a little. So gun violence is a good example. Sexual assault, healthcare, topics like that. So things that are kind of always there, but maybe we're just not talking about at the moment. And when we think about current events and trending topics, one of the greatest things about those are that you know that there's a built in audience already. And I've found a lot of success through going through current events and trending topics because then you don't necessarily, people are already looking for it, so that cuts down on a lot of the work that you have to do. So I know some of this process can, again, it can feel pretty soul sucking. You're like well this doesn't feel like I'm doing something for me, it feels like I'm doing something for everybody else, and so I feel that, I've been there. And so one of my strategies to kind of combat that feeling is that so when I'm looking at trending topics, I try to look at it with the understanding that I don't just have to do it because it's trending. I should be doing it because it's trending and it also speaks to me. So this was my first viral hit when I was at BuzzFeed. It's called 11 Struggles That Curvy Girls Know Too Well. And my strategy for picking out this video is that I went to the trending page that they have and most websites have a trending page that you can look at. And I saw that an article was like, 20 things that curvy girls know or have been through, was trending. And I was like well that speaks to me because I'm a curvy girl, hashtag, big girl nation. And so I was like well it's trending, it has a built in audience. And so it speaks to me so maybe I want to try and make a video about that. And so for this particular video, it was crazy. I had like, it has 30 million views right now, but I remember in the first couple of days it had like somewhere near like 20 million. And that was just on Facebook. So yeah, trending topics are a really great way that I would definitely say you want to still think about how does it resonate with you as well? And so I bring all this up to say that if your content doesn't necessarily serve a purpose in the life of your consumer, then it means that there's a lower likelihood that people will engage with it. And engagement is so important online when we're thinking about increasing the visibility of our content. A lack of engagement will usually lead to content suppression because of the algorithms. And I know that all the algorithms are always changing about and stuff on the different platforms, but the one thing that's usually consistent is that algorithms will promote the highest engaged content. And so one of the most organic ways to do that is again thinking about your audience and having them in mind as to how your content will serve a purpose in their life. And so all of this is to say that first impressions are everything, both in real life and online. So the people who come past your content, the first few people, they are so crucial. If they don't feel compelled to engage with it, then it means there's a good chance that it's just going to get pushed further and further down in the algorithm. Alright so quick recap. So relevancy is key in driving organic growth. When it's clear, when your content is clear about how it impacts the life of your consumers, it has a much higher likelihood of getting increased invisibility. Doing thorough research on your audience and your competition will allow you to make the best informed decisions on where to spend your time, money, and energy. And then lastly, you want to make sure that you're creating content that people will feel compelled to engage with the minute they see it. So it's to take advantage of the organic boost that you'll get from the platform algorithms. Again first impressions are extremely important.

Class Description

It’s the Holy Grail for anyone who’s active on social media: going viral. We all want our posts, photos, and videos to grab the attention of a wide swath of the internet so we can achieve our personal and professional goals, but how do you make that happen? Veteran digital media producer Daysha Veronica (Edewi) will give you the tools to distribute your content effectively. In this class, you’ll learn how to:

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Understand audience behavior and attitudes so you can design content that gets noticed.
  • Differentiate between the various social media platforms and what works best for each.
  • Evaluate your posts and define the metrics of success.

Getting your online content to reach the masses isn’t easy, but this class will give you the tools you need to better understand the social media ecosystem and design content that’s poised to make a splash.


andrew blyth

I really value the content, but it's almost unwatchable for me, and it's not Daysha's fault. I'm a misophone, which means certain noises really, really irritate me. The person who put the microphone on her put it on so that I hear every single moment she smacks her lips. It's so irritating I cannot watch a complete video in one sitting. I haven't finished the second video yet, but I must take a break, and maybe I can come back to the rest later.