Funko Pop PsyAs we’re coming to the end of the year, we’re starting to see a lot of countdowns. We haven’t quite hit the annual cultural nadir of celebrities pretending to remember movies or TV shows or whatever 101 they’re doing this year. But a few top 10 blogs are starting filter through. There might even be a few here over the next couple of weeks.

One in particular caught my eye today as YouTube released their 2012 rewind, with Gangnam Style leading the way. I have a strange relationship with Gangnam Style. It’s a viral video I have seen, and one that I like but one that I don’t count as viral in my head because I didn’t hear about it online.

The Long-Journey To Gangnam Style

I actually came a little late to Gangnam Style. It had been all over the Internet for a while before I saw, or even heard about it. Somehow it became one of those online anomalies that occur from time to time. I was online every day, I was on Twitter and I regularly talk to the kind of people who definitely encountered PSY early in his viral career. But it never made it to me. I went offline as Gangnam’s social media shares were pushed down Twitter timelines and Facebook feeds.

Then someone at a party mentioned Gangnam as if they were talking about Star Wars. The idea that I didn’t know what it was seemed so alien to him, I think he briefly thought I might be from another planet. Even then, I didn’t watch it for a few days. I don’t like to interrupt parties with forays onto YouTube, well not all the time.

When I finally did see it, I saw the San Francisco wedding version first. That came through an online share from someone else. That’s the clearest viral discovery I have encountered. I didn’t just happen upon this video, it didn’t appear on a list of social media shares. Two people sought me out to share it, through different mediums and at different times. All weeks after I should really have spotted it online.

It got me thinking about social media shares and viral content. These shares came from two very different people, who both assumed I’d already seen the video. As marketers, that kind of sharing is like our holy grail. The interesting thing was, that kind of sharing is exactly the kind content marketers don’t target.

We target content within an inch of its life. We build content for a specific audience; we sometimes even build content for a set social network. We target and almost actively limit social media shares. We do that because we want to focus on quality, not quantity. After all one strong lead is worth ten weak ones. But if viral videos like Gangnam Style teach us anything, it’s that second-hand sharing can be really effective.

Targeting Second-Hand Shares

The people who made Gangnam Style go viral weren’t the people who first saw it and shared it, it was the people they shared it with that pushed it into the public sphere. A lot of content gets good social media shares, but the types of content that go really viral are the ones that are shared and re-shared and re-shared. If you can create content with mass appeal, you might hit more than your target market the first time. That second wave of social media shares could hit more valuable users than your targeting ever could.

Which suggests three things all content marketers should consider when creating content.

  1.  Aim For Mass Appeal: Your content still has to be relevant to your industry, but mainstream relevance gives it a big advantage. All social media shares have some value; don’t needlessly discourage them with industry jargon. Don’t be afraid to reference pop culture, it could give your content real spark.
  2. Share Everywhere, Over and Over: Social media shares are like dominoes, all it takes is one good share to generate many more. The more you share, the more likely you are to get that crucial share.
  3. Target Other Influencers: When you do share your content, don’t just target groups and influencers in your target market. Extra shares cost nothing, so share in groups that have a minor link to your industry. You never know whose friend of a friend you might reach.

The main drivers of viral content will always be the quality of the content itself and massive slices of luck. Give that luck a bit of help by targeting second-hand social media shares, Gangnam Style.