Too often the corporate mass media promotes senseless stories that not only go viral but literally take up the airwaves for weeks. You know, those absurd stories that make your head want to explode like the infamous Balloon Boy and Octomom from a few years ago that you might remember? These absurd stories clog the airwaves so frequently that it’s such a relief when you finally get to see the mainstream media report on a positive, and heartwarming story that deservedly so, causes viral disruption around the world.
This past Thursday I became inspired by one of these stories and in my opinion this story was a “When Going Viral Works” moment. This was a story that was being communicated to millions of people overnight for all the right reasons. It wasn’t just the end result of this heartfelt story that inspired me, but as some readers might be able to guess it was the different reasons why the story went viral that motivated me to write today’s post. As this story showed sometimes the reasons for virality are so subtle, simple, and literally elementary that you would never think these kind of simplistic moves could make so much positive noise in the world. However sometimes it is these characteristics of ones actions that are the most effective and influential means for creating viral disruption.
The story I’m referring to happened last Tuesday with a collegiate athlete from Florida State University. Star football player and Wide Receiver Travis Rudolph made an autistic child’s dream come true in the most spontaneous unplanned manner possible. Travis decided to join local middle schooler named “Bo Paske” for lunch in the cafeteria after seeing first hand and learning that the autistic youngster was frequently left sitting alone with no friends by his side to talk to.
Even Travis didn’t realize how this simple and kind gesture of his (for one of his youngest fans) would have virally materialized. Travis was quoted by the Washington Post saying, “I didn’t even recognize that it would be this big, It just became really viral, and I just wanted it to become aware that everyone is the same, and one man can make a difference.”
Pretty understandable to see where Travis is coming from. I mean why would anyone think that such a small simple action could produce such pronounced results? Let’s take a closer look and try understanding the reasons for why this story went as viral as it did!:
- Simplicity: how often do you hear the phrase “the more simple the better?” I imagine plenty of times and when it comes to making something go viral this statement surely applies. When you want to see something resonate and grow with the public from a viral marketing standpoint you can’t have this “something” be confusing for people to understand. The public has to “get it” instantly and in this case the action of having lunch with a lonely autistic child was something that people instantly understood and appreciated.
- Everyone Can Relate To It: a majority of people on the planet grew up and went to some sort of elementary school. This same majority of people also had lunch time in the cafeteria while attending elementary school. This 60 minute period which was usually combined with recess, holds a special place in people’s hearts even as you enter adulthood. When you have a story that everyone can relate to personally, the odds of the story going viral increases dramatically. As a result exponentially more people are able to relate to the story and think back to their own childhood days of eating lunch in the cafeteria, and this gives you a much larger population of people to have the story resonate with.
- Feel Good: this kind of story makes people feel very good inside and it also makes the public as a whole feel hopeful. See when people’s emotions get involved for the better, the chances of there being a viral effect increases. If you feel good about a story the odds of you wanting to share this story with your friends and family increases so that they can experience this same heartfelt feeling as you did. Positive stories usually have a much greater chance of gaining traction and going viral, over negative stories and this example clearly displays that.
- Local Star Player: this entire unplanned event took place at a local middle school near Florida State University. Travis Rudolph is a superstar in that geographic area of Florida near the state capital Tallahassee. Although Travis wasn’t a nationally recognized figure last week, the fact that this event took place near Florida State University, gave the story a larger foundation for viral traction to be catapulted off of.
- Authenticity: this action by Travis was unscripted and as he even said himself he had no idea people were taking pictures of him eating lunch with Bo. When it’s easy recognizable how organic ones actions are as opposed to looking completely scripted the chances of this action going viral increases because people can see that authenticity. Usually scripted actions can easily be depicted and as a result people will usually be less willing to want to share a story or piece of content that seems fake.
Many of the reasons this story went viral as explained above I experienced first hand with my former Hoverboard company. For example when it came to authenticity, it was very apparent how organic the love for the Hoverboard product was when people rode one. There was no scripting the smiles, joy, and fun millions of people were having when they rode a Hoverboard and as a result millions of other people wanted to experience that same feeling.
I think this story in particular can demonstrate to entrepreneurs that oftentimes creating more simple marketing campaigns for your company can end up producing the largest results. If young entrepreneurs can keep in mind some of the concepts and strategies above they should be able to see some of their own companies go viral, but for all the right reasons!