The art of attracting attention and creating hype

Every second, millions of people hear about new products and ideas thanks to the social networks—a phenomenon powered solely by people sharing things that moved them. Word-of-mouth marketing is like rocket fuel and is the single most important and powerful tool you have. Ad clutter is everywhere, and we just ignore it. We don’t trust ads, and they cost too much anyway. But humans have used stories to illustrate, entertain and persuade since we used rocks as tools. We’re naturally built for them; whether it’s gossip, news or the muttering in our heads.

So how do you harness the powers of YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to make your app famous in a week? The simple answer is you need to either have a famous trendsetter spot your story (like Oprah), create something that lets the world participate (think of all the parodies of Gangnam Style), or create something unexpected (like the cannonball leap into a freezing pool). But the basis of any good story is that it’s simple and touches the audience’s imagination. For example:

  • It reveals something personal or unknown about you or your brand.
  • It taps into a specific emotion such as fear, joy, anger, playfulness, or shock.
  • It makes people feel empowered and casts them as the hero.
  • It lets people believe in a solution.
  • It surprises, amuses, and takes people on a journey.

We’ll dive deeper into these tactics in a minute. First, understand that half of your time should be spent connecting with people and sharing, and the other half creating. Start with the people you already know and build from there. Remember, word-of-mouth marketing is about interacting with people and enticing them to participate. This is how you do it.

Give people a story to tell

Give people something to talk about—that’s the entire crux of word-of-mouth advertising. People naturally want to tell each other stories, so give them one. What gives a good story life? Yes, it’s interesting. But more so, a good story makes the person sharing it interesting. You want to give people something to talk about because it makes them compelling and gives them an edge. Here are a few ways to do that.

Pull on the heart strings

Content that touches people’s emotional sides is by far the most effective. Reveal the heartbreak

of loss, the tremendous power of loyalty, and the triumph of the human spirit. These are stories that move us and stick with us. They motivate us, shake our awareness, and stir up emotions that connect us all.

Build identity

People want to share content that reflects who they are and where they stand on issues and ideas, whether it’s social, political or emotional. For example, when President Obama won reelection in 2012, he tweeted three words, and his message broke the record for most retweets. The tweet simply says “Four more years,” and shows a photo of the President and the First Lady embracing.

Another example is the 30-minute documentary film Koney 2012 about Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony. With more than 100 million jaw-dropping views in six days, it became the most viral video in history, according to Mashable (http://mashable.com/2012/03/12/konymost-viral/). Throughout the video, the filmmaker Jason Russell makes the story about the viewers by repeatedly referencing Facebook. He uses the Facebook’s Timeline feature to help viewers visualise his story, all the more powerful because of the fact many people watched his video after discovering it on their Facebook news feeds.

Make it cute as kittens

Whether or not you’re a feline lover, a kitten playing the piano is going to make you smile at least a little. It’s not just dolled-up cats that are suddenly in need of a good talent agent; children and adorable grandparents are also easy pickings.

Esther Huffman was trying to show her husband how to take a photo using the camera on their laptop. She couldn’t get it to work because it was taking a video, unbeknownst to them. She unknowingly recorded their struggle, and the video, titled “Webcam 101 for Seniors,” has been viewed more than 10 million times.

Make us laugh

Perhaps the most common of all viral content are the things that make us laugh. As comedian

Yakov Smirnoff says laughter is the shortest distance between two people. It not only brings people closer but also can also sell a lot of product. The Dollar Shave Club (dollarshaveclub.com) launched in March 2012 with a hilarious video of the CEO, Mike Dubin, walking through the warehouse. The ad went viral and was viewed 2 million times its first four days on YouTube. Within the first week, Dollar Shave Club had 25,000 new members. None of which would have been possible if the video wasn’t funny.

Create nostalgia

We all love to reminisce about the good old days. Big hair and horrible fashion, celebrity teen crushes, music, old toys—the list is endless. The familiarity with comfortable classics and our beloved heroes from yesteryear connects us to a more hopeful time. Rather than creating new plots with new characters, take your fans back to their fond memories.

The creators of Hipstamatic (hipstamatic.com) have earned more than $10 million from their app, which transforms photos into really cool retro images. They’re sticking with the ‘70s pop culture feel in their latest app, SwankoLab (hipstamatic.com/swankolab).

Try taboo, unusual, or outrageous

When all else fails, there’s nothing like sex, lies, or bathroom humour to spice up some content. It suddenly becomes far more interesting. Stupid pet tricks, the wild, eccentric, and unpredictable are all mainstream viral content. The video Tootin’ Bathtub Baby Cousins is a simple little song about the bubbles these kids make in the bath after eating too many beans, and it has over 250 million views.

Apps that make you bald or fat, change faces, wiggle body parts, or produce farts are obviously in no shortage on the App Store. There is unquestionably a huge market for anything that is shocking and appeals to teenage male humour.