Harnessing the power of viral marketing can be a hit-and-miss affair, but thanks to AI, you can now design a viral campaign for yourself.

When it comes to marketing, viral campaigns are hard to beat: consumers are more likely to trust a campaign if it is coming from other consumers, and – perhaps even better – they don’t require much outlay. A good viral campaign will generate millions of views and shares, and people will lead endless discussions about it on forums, in blogs as well as newspaper articles, all by themselves.

Serendipity on social media


The success of some viral campaigns has been on a par with well-planned and professionally executed marketing exercises. The #nomakeupselfie campaign raised £8million for Cancer Research UK in six days in 2014, coming fourth on The Massive Top25 list of mass-participation fundraising events. It began with American crime author Laura Lippman tweeting a picture of herself without make-up in support of actress Kim Novak, star of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, was subjected to abuse at the Oscars for her recent plastic surgery. After the campaign became associated with breast cancer, Cancer Research UK’s judicious tweeting turned the wave of engagement into a hugely successful off-the-cuff fundraising campaign.

Cancer Research had the acumen to engage with users entering the challenge and appropriate the campaign, but the process was never under the charity’s full control: viral magic is hard to harness. Or so it seemed.

AI is the digital marketer’s new best friend


So is there anything you can do as a business other than enviously watch from the sidelines those who viral campaigns just seem to happen to?

There is. By using artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities such as computer vision , natural language processing or machine learning for social media marketing purposes, you can understand when, where and how a piece of digital content goes viral. Moreover, you can actually hold the magic wand in your hand and orchestrate viral campaigns for yourself!

With hundreds of millions of pictures being posted to Facebook alone over a 24-hour period, human intelligence is incapable of skimming through social media posts and selecting the ones that are relevant. What AI does better than any human is to monitor social media 24/7 and spot trends. This gives you a clear overview of all the conversations taking place about your brand on various social media platforms. When AI detects mentions of your brand, it’s essential that you enter the conversation immediately in ways that will give a boost to the trend’s lifecycle and reach.

AI is just as useful for analysing your own digital content for any weaknesses, or the content of your competitors to see what works for them, giving you the opportunity to integrate some of those features into your own content. Social listening (a more sophisticated form of social media monitoring) alongside with sentiment analysis tools can identify the words, colours and visual objects that are likely to make the biggest positive impact on your performance and teach you, for example, what image elements work best with your audience.

A good example of the things you can learn about the preferences of your audience thanks to these tools comes from social media AI content platform Cortex. In a survey Cortex did for travel and visitor information site visitutah.com, it found that photos of fir trees performed 53 per cent better, while photos of families performed 30 per cent below average. Is the majority of visitutah.com’s audience single nature-loving males, you wonder?

There is one more important factor to the secret formula if you want your brand to go viral on social media: you need to find and use the right digital influencers: individuals on social media with the power to affect others’ likes and decisions. By analysing the followers, posts and interactions of individual influencers, algorithms can help you find the ones that are most suitable for your brand and thus save you a lot of money that otherwise may be ill-spent.

Once you have fully understood your audience on social media, and maybe even created your digital buyer persona – a representation of your ideal customer based on real data about your existing customers – all you need to do is create the ideal content to dovetails with these demographics, behaviour patterns, motivations and goals. Content-creating AI is less mature than the technologies used in social media monitoring, so here you will have to rely on human intelligence to a larger extent – for the time being…

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