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How do you make content go viral?

Scott Galloway:  How does something go viral?  I don’t think there’s anyone who’s cracked the code on this.  There’s some basics around something that’s sort of, just so adorable that we want to watch it, but it’s very hard to manufacture or predict that.  A lot of it is just the basics you would assume: something that’s really insightful, something that’s timely, something that taps into some sort of social commentary right now.  Where it’s a bit different than what traditional media tends to find popular, something that is raw, authentic, and not produced. 

As an entrepreneur and someone who’s worked in marketing my whole life, there are a lot of things I would have liked to have gone viral that never did.  And the one thing that did go viral was an exchange I had with a student in one of my second year MBA classes at NYU Stern.  A student had walked into my course late and as I do, I kicked this person out, or asked them to leave.  And I received a fairly terse email from that student saying how disappointed he was in my policy.  And I responded.  And I responded in a fairly lengthy  and straightforward and somewhat irreverent tone. 

I took his name out and entitled it, “This is the late policy” and then distributed that email exchange to my class.  Within about 12 hours, I started getting an email from people commenting on that email about every two to three seconds to the point where it kind of crashed my email.  And at that point, I realized something had gone on here. 

And a lot of us at the university have tried to figure out what about this inspired these millions of views and a decent amount of media reporting.  A) it was controversial.  There were a lot of people that believe that school has become so expensive and that effectively, I work for this student and so to kick this student out… the bottom line is I was all wet and I shouldn’t have done that.  And a lot of people weighed in.  But probably two-thirds of the email were people saying that students and young people in this generation have become somewhat expectant, and they were happy to see the reaction here or “putting this person in his or her place.” 

Tap into social controversy.

So when you respond or get to jump into the middle of something that taps into the social consciousness about something that’s latent or just beneath the surface that’s brewing, that taps into something controversial, in this case how expectant GEN Y has become, and how incredibly expensive education has become, and the fact that a lot of people think that we in education are sitting in ivory towers and not delivering the value we should.  You have two very credible, emotional arguments that came kind of full force together in the form of an authentic email.  It was also, I’d like to think there was some humor in it, and I think that helped.  More than anything, this email kind of jumped into the middle of a controversy that people had been thinking about or something that they were struggling within themselves in terms of how to reconcile the expectation of Gen Y and the increasing cost of education.

Directed by Jonathan Fowler
Produced by Elizabeth Rodd


What Makes Something Go Viral?

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