Get Lucky: how your company can ‘go viral’

eSight

eSight has had a busy and very interesting year in 2015. In January, we got international attention on the back of a hugely successful viral video that had over 3.5 million views on YouTube alone within a couple of weeks.

Within hours of the video going online, our phones were ringing off the hook. For days, our website saw more traffic each hour than we had had in 2014 cumulatively. This was the very definition of ‘going viral’ and it was great for us. eSight, the little Canadian company with great technology that could provide sight for people with low vision was, all of a sudden, a brand with international name recognition with stories running on hundreds of major media outlets.

How did we get there? What made eSight go viral?

I have heard people say that the Internet is unpredictable and that ‘virality’ is a matter of luck. While they are right and what goes viral can sometimes be mysterious as to why people care so much, there are certain things you can do to help. eSight may have gotten lucky, but we worked really hard to create that good luck.

We learned a lot during the process, and I’d love to offer you, and your startup, some tips on how to create a successful viral campaign. Here’s my advice based on the work we did and what we learned along the way.

1) Have a great story and tell it well

eSight has always had one, huge advantage: our users’ stories are incredible. Our technology does something amazing in providing actual sight to people that are legally blind, and vision loss is actually quite pervasive in society. I meet people all the time that have someone close to them–a parent, grandparent, sibling, cousin, friend, or coworker–that has vision loss, which means that eSight’s story resonates on a very personal level.

However, a great story isn’t enough; you also need to figure out how to tell that story. With that in mind, we at eSight are always on the lookout for ways that we can feature our amazing users. We want to help them celebrate what they have achieved with eSight. For them, and for us, success is not just the technology working–it is the life each user builds with eSight as a tool. Our users tend to love sharing those stories, from their new lives at work and at school, or, as was the case with our viral video, the incredible stories that come from their personal lives.

2) Invest in great content

Once you have a story, you need to feature it. Of course, the question of ‘how’ is more complicated. When we found out about Kathy’s story, we ensured that professional filmmakers were there to produce the video, which got us a great-looking piece of content. However, we have also had success featuring moments captured on a smartphone. The important thing is not necessarily to spend money but to invest time and energy to make sure that you actually get the content period.

Then, the hard work starts.

When our team saw the original cut of the video, we knew that we had something special (especially since Kathy’s story had our whole office crying); we needed to ensure that the world would see these amazing 70 seconds. Before we posted the video, our team spent weeks researching contacts at newspapers, magazines, blogs, and TV stations. Then, when the video went live, every member of our team got online and shared the video with our whole contact lists to get the word out and let people know.

eSight Reddit AMA

3) Use every avenue

However, even those ‘traditional’ means of outreach were not enough. Phone calls, emails, Facebook posts, Tweets, and LinkedIn connections only got us so far. To really capture the Internet’s interest, we wanted to connect on every platform and in every medium that we could.

What finally drove the initial momentum for our campaign was an AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) chat posted on Reddit by one of our users that ended up on the front page of the site. That exposure drove hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube and, from there, momentum carried us through into the millions.

Other companies can follow in eSight’s footsteps. You need to focus on what makes you unique, communicate it clearly and in a way that has some creativity, and make the effort to get it noticed. People want to spend their time learning about great stories; make your story great and people will give you their time.

Taylor West eSight

Taylor West is eSight’s Director of Outreach. eSight has created breakthrough electronic glasses that enable the legally blind to actually see. We are a proudly Canadian company.