Mastering Marketing Momentum: Lessons Learned From Five of the Internet's Most Sharable Slices

More than “likes” or even views, shares can benefit your business by extending the reach of your brand. In other words, shares are the key to exponentially increasing your exposure to new audiences – and ultimately garnering even more likes, views and shares. Here’s a quick look at five recent “sharability” success stories and the lesson you can apply to boost the effectiveness of your own marketing campaigns.

1. Samsung Galaxy S III phone bump bests Apple.

Rather than attempt to compete with the Apple "universe of cachet," Samsung wisely zeroed in on one simple, cool thing that the iPhone couldn't do – as shown in their "Next Big Thing Is Here" campaign. And they framed that moment with a context (a loooong line at your local Apple store) that poked fun at Apple's legion of superfans while emphasizing what they might be missing out on. The resulting viral phenomenon generated more views on YouTube (over 17 million in total) than than all of Apple's 2012 ads combined – and more importantly, pushed the Galaxy S III to overtake the iPhone in worldwide sales in the third quarter of 2012, shortly following the release of the commercial. As selling points go, the "phone bump" might not stand on its own for long. But a well-designed product with other strong features (such as leading 4g technology and a larger screen) allowed this clever presentation to capitalize on its momentum and translate buzz into sales. The clip hit home with a huge audience that was beginning to show some brand fatigue with Apple – and Apple’s well-known, easily-caricatured tribe of brand evangelists. The takeaway: In today’s fast-paced world of business, timing is everything. Always keep your radar up for opportunities – whether that’s exploiting cracks in the competitor’s armor or seizing upon the chance to bring something new to the marketplace – and strike quickly (and creatively).

2. "Man of Steel" trailers take flight.

The last Superman movie, 2006's super-sincere Superman Returns, while reasonably successful, didn't energize the comic-book pioneer's enormous fanbase. Instead, the collective reaction seemed to land somewhere between "not bad" and "not great." Which just didn't cut it. A sequel never materialized in large part because there wasn’t a rabid demand for it. The intervening years have been witness to the huge success of superhero franchises like Iron Man, The Avengers and of course Batman. Much of the flaky "comic-book-ness" of earlier films has given way in the new millennium to earnest, darker, more realistic-looking efforts that hit home with an audience that values cool over camp. This time around Superman, first and mightiest of all costumed crusaders, needed to lose the golly-gee and make with the internal conflict and superpowers. And this set of trailers comes through – in speeding bullet fashion.

The trailers carry an angsty theme, to be sure. But the money moment is when our hero puts his fists on the ground and rockets into the stratosphere. It's a fantastic-looking flight that promises a movie filled not only with its share of 21st-century motivations but special effects that are truly...super. The first trailer drew more than 3 million views – and now, as the movie’s release date nears, the third trailer (also containing the definitive flight sequence), driven by thousands of Facebook shares and retweets, has passed 21 million views. The takeaway: It’s critical to be in tune with your tribe. Motivating someone to choose to share your content over all of the other stuff that comes their way in any given day requires you to give them something that resonates deeply with them on an emotional level, whether that emotion is humor, empathy, excitement, anger or any other feeling in the pantheon of the human condition. You can’t strike that chord unless you are truly one with your audience.

3. Lowes’ #lowesfixinsix vine series helps in seconds.

Lowes’ smart, useful “Fix in Six” series, utilizing the six-second video sharing app Vine, is among the first – and best – marketing efforts on the new platform, which Twitter recently purchased and is rapidly integrating into its text-and links-based model. By its nature, Vine’s six-second time limit forces any application for marketing to be all hook and no sinker. Lowes wisely utilizes the app to serve up content that is every bit as helpful as it is brief. And the fact that it’s all happening on Twitter – the second largest social channel on the Internet after Facebook – means that the audience is potentially huge for marketers who get it right. The takeaway: In a new marketing world where trust – and by extension trustworthy content – is king, achieving the perfect marriage of message and medium is paramount. Whether Vine, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest is your weapon of choice, know it well and use it wisely.

4. Old Spice’s "I'm On A Horse" rides a viral wave.

Sure, the whole commercial is hilarious – from the shower scene to the handful of diamonds and all the accompanying dialog. In the rapid pace of online culture, it's already secured its place as an Internet classic. It's also a great example of traditional media creating synergy with online channels, as millions of people flocked from TV to the Web to watch this clip again and again. But it all comes back to the last bit – that second of time when the camera pulls back as the actor proclaims, "I'm on a horse." As a closing punchline, this moment had its work cut out for it. But the "best surprise yet" reveal managed to easily top everything that came before. And just like that the clip is over, motivating many to click the replay button. And the embed button, and the retweet button, and the share button, thereby spreading like wildfire among social networks and personal blogs and resulting in more than 45 million views. The takeaway: Granted, there’s no magic formula that guarantees that your next clip will go viral. However, what is guaranteed is that playing it safe is no way to achieve that “sharability” factor you seek. Go out on a creative limb. Sure, it’s scary out there, but if your grandpa’s aftershave brand can push the envelope with the “Man Your Man Could Smell Like,” you can, too.

5. The Oatmeal’s odd but awesome ode to Nikola Tesla.

Tesla 1 The Oatmeal, created by Matthew Inman, is one of the most popular comics on the Internet, garnering more than 4 million unique visitors per month and generating more than half a million dollars in income annually. By turns acerbic and sentimental, the strip relies as much on Inman's writing as his simple illustration style. One of The Oatmeal's most-shared installments – and a defining moment that earned him coverage in media giants like Time magazine and Wired – is a rambling rumination on the genius of 19th-century inventor, Nikola Tesla. Almost entirely a written piece, this selection stands as an example of the mysterious, unquantifiable attributes of what sometimes constitutes "sharability." The subject is obscure to most of the population. The piece is almost entirely text and could simply be labeled a humorous essay were it not interspersed with illustrations like this: Tesla 2 Yet because of Inman's built-in audience, his genuine passion for Tesla's lifetime of innovation and the media attention given to his subsequent Indiegogo campaign to purchase and renovate Tesla's old lab and turn it into a museum, this particular strip garnered more than 38,000 retweets and 18,000 Google+ recommendations. And the campaign raised $2.1 million in nine days. No doubt Tesla, an erratic genius who studied all aspects of electricity and invented radar and alternating current among other things, would have appreciated Inman's success at capturing Internet lightning in a bottle. The takeaway: Achieving a high “sharability” factor doesn’t require playing to the lowest common denominator. Sometimes going narrow and focusing on creating something that will catch fire within your specific niche can be a powerful strategy.

Now it’s your turn.

“Sharability” isn't necessarily about appealing to a wide audience, although several of the above pieces do that. It's about creating a deep impression with a passionate audience – and motivating that audience to spread the word. A flash of anticipation, a sense of urgency, a helpful tip or a genuine belly-laugh can all create that fundamental desire to let others in on the good stuff. So now it’s your turn. Go forth and create good stuff.