How to go viral - The Flash Pack
Making something go viral is now the holy grail of marketing. When something goes viral it is shared by millions globally, potentially getting you or your business in front of audiences normally reserved for giant campaigns. One business that knows about the impact going viral can have on your business is The Flash Pack, a company which puts together boutique travel holidays for people looking for both adventure and comfort.
Co-founder Lee Thompson’s photo of himself at the top of 38-metre high statue Christ The Redeemer in Rio De Janeiro was picked up by major news outlets and completely blew up, with over 50 million engagements on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, 100 million impressions worldwide, appearances on the news, and tweets from Vice, Perez Hilton, Lonely Planet and Richard Branson, amongst many, many more – all in just one week. The result? 2.5 million hits to their website that same week, propelling them almost overnight into an international company. Not bad for a stunt that cost just $800. But to go viral you need more than just an awesome photo. Co-founder Radha Vyas shares The Flash Pack’s tips on how to go viral.
The perfect idea
“If something’s going to go viral, it needs to be something that no-one’s done before – something completely unique,” explains Radha. “It’s also really useful if you can capitalise on hype or anything zeitgeisty. The photo tied into two massive trends at the time – the World Cup in Brazil, and the explosion of selfies. Think about huge events that are coming up and what’s going on generally, and think about how you can do something which fits into this. Other really successful things are funny, or inspire strong emotion – these are the things that get people clicking the ‘Share’ button.”
In the same vein, timing is crucial. “We’d shown the photo to some friends, who’d all thought it was amazing – and then we sat on it for a month, to ensure that when we published it there would be maximum impact,” says Radha. “We decided to release it two weeks before the World Cup for maximum hype. We knew we should wait for the perfect time, but we were worried – what if somebody else got there first, or nobody cared? Luckily our patience paid off!”
“Ensure that you know all the steps to making your viral image happen. For example we had to get permission, do plenty of groundwork, and think outside the box generally to get that perfect image. You’ll run up against people who’ll say you can’t do things, but stay organised and persistent.”
Understand your goals
“This is vital – you’re not just creating a viral image for the sake of it,” advises Radha. “Make sure you know exactly why you’re doing it, and that it all comes back to your brand. In our case our goals were to raise brand awareness, find early adopters and drive leads back to our website, improve our SEO and to increase our database. With a tiny budget, we wanted to speed up the things that would normally take months or years to build.
“To ensure our brand was attached to the image, we wrote a press release with our key brand messages to go along with the photo, and released it on a slow news day so it had more chance of getting noticed. People saw the photo, shared it, and in the process found out about us.”
Put in the hours
“You can’t just put an image on your Facebook page and wait for it to go viral,” warns Radha. “ In fact, when we shared the image on our company Twitter it didn’t get that much attention – but when we started sharing it on our personal accounts things started to speed up, as people like the personal touch.
“In order to make sure we got real value out of the image, I had to contact lots of people who were using the image to ask them to link back to us. When something goes viral you can lose control of it – the image becomes detached from the brand – which means your company doesn’t benefit from the impact. I was at the computer for days just emailing different people and asking for a link back, but it paid off, and we’ve now got over 10,000 quality backlinks and 400,000 search results on Google.
“We also invested time into writing a compelling and high-quality press release, to make things as easy as possible for journalists – we drafted and re-drafted many times. When something goes viral news outlets act quickly, and our press release meant they could just cut, paste, and publish before the story got stale, or something new came along.”
“The reaction was so massive, and in retrospect we would have done a couple of things slightly differently,” says Radha. “To view more hi-res images you had to visit our website, and I considered setting it so that people had to enter their email address in order to view the pictures, allowing us to build up our database. I decided against this in case it put people off, but in the end so many people viewed the images I think they would have been happy to do this.
“The campaign gave us a huge uplift – it effectively launched our company, got our early adopters onboard, accelerated our SEO and won us customers from Scandinavia, America and South Africa, turning us into an international company. This would have taken years to achieve without the photo. However, we were prepared for the press release to launch on a Monday, but someone picked it up on Sunday. We weren’t ready for the amount of attention, and the website crashed – so make sure you’re ready early!”