I always hate it when a client says, “I want to do this, that and the other and then I want to make it go viral”. I shoot back you can’t make anything go viral. You sneeze and you may or may not pass on the virus. It’s the same on the Internet. You post good content and it may or may not catch on. Apparently I am incorrect and there is a science to sharing with platforms that inject data into the “art of going viral”.

Amplify’d from www.adweek.com
In 2001, grad student Jonah Peretti accidentally created an Internet sensation when e-mails of his attempts to put “sweatshop” on sneakers customized with Nike ID went viral. In 2005, he set out to repeat his unexpected success with far different content: Black People Love Us, a parody site of a quintessentially white couple’s efforts to ingratiate themselves with African Americans. It also became a viral hit.

This convinced Peretti that the “mysterious” world of viral content can be broken down and made somewhat predictable. He went on to found content-sharing platform BuzzFeed in 2006 on the proposition that science can be applied to content creation to up the chances of viral appeal.

“There’s an underlying human impulse to share ideas and experiences,” said Peretti. “There are certain types of content that make you want to share them because they’ve put you in a social mind-set.”

Now, BuzzFeed and other Web-sharing platforms such as StumbleUpon, Digg and even Twitter and Facebook are providing advertisers with an entrée into the stream of shared content by posting brand content on their sites. On top of this, they’re then using the viral data to help ignite sharing that can meld paid impressions with earned media.

They’ve done just that for advertisers like National Geographic, AOL and DonQ.

Last week, Pepsi began a test with BuzzFeed to see if it could generate what PepsiCo Beverages head of digital Shiv Singh calls “impressions plus.” Pepsi already had a TV spot that recently proved popular on YouTube, with 100,000 views in under a week. BuzzFeed, knowing that content with lists is more often shared, used the spot in a content package called “Top 10 Most Iconic Pepsi Commercials of All Time.” It has proven only mildly popular, netting 946 viral views on top of 2,700 seeded views.

Singh said Pepsi would evaluate the best way to utilize BuzzFeed based on its performance so far.

There’s a persistent argument that if a brand’s content is good enough — think: the recent Old Spice “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” social media response campaign — it doesn’t need advertising. But that’s mostly a myth, Peretti contends, pointing out that even Burger King’s “Subservient Chicken” benefited from a national TV campaign promoting the site.