Kill the Hype and Create a Buzz

Kill the Hype and Create a Buzz

Going viral is the Holy Grail of social media marketing. It represents the ultimate achievement of a marketing campaign launched through the Internet: popularity that skyrockets into legendary status. However, unlike the irreverent quest for the Holy Grail depicted in a certain cult-classic film, reaching that goal isn’t merely an exercise in light-hearted entertainment. It takes a good helping of know-how, some marketing finesse, and a lot of buzz.

Buzz is a marketing term that was once a mere footnote in campaign strategies, but with the advent of social media, has become the “make or break” element of any successful marketing plan. Buzz is the force that can carry a message across the globe, reaching beyond target demographic groups and regions. It’s easy to see why marketers are scrambling to create buzz for their brands and products, but there are pitfalls to watch out for. Like a cinematic twist, buzz has an evil twin that it’s all too commonly mistaken for called hype.

So how can you tell the difference, and what’s really so bad about hype, anyway? Hype is an ad campaign whose momentum is self-generated, getting aggressively promoted and boasted about by its own source. It is the brand itself telling customers that it’s entertaining and exciting, hoping for a trickle-down effect through the audience and their networks to achieve popularity. It should go without saying that this type of marketing rarely, if ever, reaches viral status.

That’s why buzz is so important to strive for. Buzz is consumer-generated, which means it relies on content capturing attention and encouraging authentic sharing. It might seem like a gamble, but it’s one that can easily be rigged in your favor. After all, studies have shown that up to 89% of adult Internet users in the U.S. share content amongst their contacts, and 63% of those users do so at least once a week. Incredibly, 25% of those users are sharing on a daily basis. While it may seem counterintuitive to avoid hype, blatant branding within content had little impact on whether the content was shared or became viral.

Take, for example, the band OK Go’s social media marketing campaign launched in 2005, which you might remember began with their “A Million Ways” music video. By August of 2006, that video had become the most downloaded music video ever with over 9 million downloads. This prompted the creation of similar videos by the band. OK Go’s latest music video that was released in March of 2010 has reached 26 million views to date, skyrocketing the band’s fame and demand. How did their popularity reach such dizzying heights? Through the power of buzz.

Not only did OK Go’s music video campaign generate a lot of buzz through being entertaining, but it launched the band from relative obscurity to worldwide recognition as well. OK Go learned from the success of their first music video and have since broken numerous records, including YouTube’s Most Favorited Video of All Time record for their “Here It Goes Again” video. With all of the reposts and views that ensued, a viral campaign was born. It’s a perfect example of how buzz can lead to a viral status without the interference of hype. It worked for OK Go, just as it can work for any brand. If given the right direction, that is.

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