Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

The three components of viral content are preparation, opportunity, and luck. Americans’ propensity for sharing comments on social media sites while watching TV combined with a big event like Super Bowl XLVIII provides the opportunity. Good preparation and a little luck substantially improve the odds of your content going viral.

Oreo’s well-publicized “you can still dunk in the dark” tweet during last year’s Super Bowl blackout created a discussion that continues to provide brand awareness a year later:

Oreo tweets "You can still dunk in the dark."

 Arby’s tweet to musician Pharrel Williams during the Grammys is another example of preparation meeting opportunity and luck. The original tweet started a conversation that was picked up by mainstream media:

Arby's "Can we have our hat back?" tweet

Both tweets were designed to make sharing easy. Here are the components that helped increase the exposure:

Content – The comments were entertaining and apropos. Arby’s gained additional exposure by including a hashtag for the Grammys. Oreo added visual appeal with the image.

Tweet Length – Limiting the number of characters used made it easier for people to retweet. Both tweets had less than 50 characters. This left room for the retweet and additional commentary. The easier you make it, the more likely the retweet.

Timing – The timing was perfect for both tweets. The Oreo tweet received over 15,000 retweets and was tagged as a favorite over 6,000 times. The Arby’s tweet received over 75,000 retweets and was tagged as a favorite over 40,000 times. This is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

How to prepare for Sunday’s Super Bowl:

Choose the social platforms - The overwhelming majority of people choose Twitter for their social activity on the second screen. Some reports suggest as much as 80% of the conversation will be via tweets. If you have a large active audience on other platforms consider participating there as well.

Prepare to go live - Scheduled content doesn’t work as well in live events.  Create a few “if, then” messages so you have them ready to cut and paste if the appropriate opportunity appears. You’ll be able to respond faster when you don’t have to worry about length, style, or spelling.

Choose the right people to manage the platforms - This is the Super Bowl. You need a winning team. Choose people that understand your brand, know the objectives, have good common sense, and love football. A passion for football isn’t mandatory but people who love the game will see more opportunities.

Have support staff available - The image used by Oreo added to the effectiveness of the tweet. Having assistance available helps capitalize on the opportunity. And, if the conversation goes wild, the support staff can help monitor and respond to the activity.

Do your research in advance - Is there a connection between your brand and one of the players? Connections with players or coaches provide sharing opportunity. Use the information to create some of the “if, then” messages.

The preparation done now significantly improves your chances to capitalize on sharing opportunities during the Super Bowl. There’s no way to know in advance that there will be a blackout or someone will show up in an oversized hat but there are some indicators of things to come. We know it will be cold and probably snowy. We know that there will be standout plays on the field and possibly in the stands. Spend a little time thinking about what might happen and how to respond. You’ll be prepared when luck strikes.