The three tenets of viral marketing

For many years I’ve talked about three tenets of viral marketing – namely what needs to happen in order to make something "go viral". I realized the other day that I’ve never blogged these tenets so I thought I’d share.

As I’ve found, the three things that make something go nuts and get all kinds of attention… you know, go viral.

Edgy
The "thing" needs to be a bit risque, something just short of inappropriate or over the line. This doesn’t mean that it should be dirty. Depending on the "thing", edgy may just be humor that’s almost uncomfortable. Think about the emails that get passed around colleagues that riff on dumb business practices. They don’t quite say "Our company does this", but the jokes come right up to that edge.

Exclusive
An exclusive element needs to be present. Not so much that you’re the only person that will receive this "thing", although that helps. Exclusive can also be a feeling, an inclusion in an inside joke.

Unexpected
In many ways, this is the most important tenet of the three. When we think about companies, groups, people, we tend to believe we already have them figured out even with only shallow knowledge. Being surprised and being made to rethink our preconceived notions is a powerful tool in creating an emotional connection with something. And when we emotionally connect with something we tend to want to share.