Planning to Spread

We’ve all seen the viral videos that seemingly come out of nowhere to garner millions of views on YouTube, videos like this one where five people play one guitar singing Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know”, which as of this date has garnered more than 163 million video views:

And if you add up all of the other postings of this same video, the total number of video views goes much, much higher.

Now, surely Gotye’s version of the song couldn’t have possibly garnered more views than this viral sensation that Walk Off the Earth’s cover created, could it?

Um, actually it did. To date Gotye’s official video has captured nearly 600 million video views, or nearly FIVE TIMES as many video views. So, it hasn’t turned out all bad for Gotye.

Now you might ask yourself, how could the huge success of the Walk Off the Earth viral campaign be trumped by traditional marketing if viral marketing is supposed to be the silver bullet?

Well, the truth is that whether you pursue traditional marketing and advertising or supposedly “viral” marketing activities, the goals are the same:

  1. Awareness
  2. Interest
  3. Desire
  4. Action

And it is within that first bullet point, that you find the viral component that any marketing activity or any evangelism activity (for innovation, for change, etc.) should always contain – spreadability.

Now, WordPress doesn’t seem to think that spreadability is a word, but let’s assume for a moment that it is and focus on the fact that most of the time, one of your goals in business (and your personal life) is spreadability. Ultimately, in many cases, success is determined by whether or not you can get your idea to spread.

This is true whether we are talking about an IT project, a Six Sigma continuous improvement effort, a change initiative, a Lean event, a marketing campaign, or a project commercializing an invention into a potential innovation.

So, can anyone guarantee that an idea or marketing campaign will spread?

The short answer is no.

Sorry, I wish I had better news for you, but the fact is that nobody can guarantee that your idea or your marketing campaign will go viral. Why?

You’re dealing with humans living in a complicated world. We’re not all built the same and the same person can have different reactions to the same stimulus (driven by mood and context among other things). This can result in a perfectly spreadable idea or message being stopped dead in its tracks, depriving you of all of the potential downstream sharing that you might have been hoping for or counting on.

Sorry, you can’t guarantee spreadability, despite what opportunistic marketing consultants claiming to know the magic formula might tell you.

Spreading ChangeBut, an idea can be built to spread.

And I’d like to share with you a simple framework, for free, that you can download and spread far and wide.

Click here to download the “Planning to Spread” starter worksheet as a PDF.

It’s based on the same priniciples as mind mapping and it will help you start either with a particular node in mind (someone you’d like to reach and influence) and work backwards, identifying both how to evolve your idea to best influence that particular node, and how you might be able to reach them (at the same time). Or you can work from the idea outwards. Focusing primarily on the WHO and the WHY as you move outward.

The key questions to consider as you are “Planning to Spread” your idea are the following:

  1. What is your idea or message? (Does it resonate with my target audience?)
  2. Who are you trying to reach?
  3. How will you reach them?
    • When will they be most receptive to the message or idea?
    • Where will they be most receptive to the message or idea?
  4. Why will they engage? (What value will they get?)
  5. Why will they share? (What value will they derive?)
  6. How will they share?

Working your way thoughtfully through these questions will increase the chances that your idea or message will spread, but they won’t guarantee it. Going through the process however will help you refine your idea or message, help you think through the mechanics of how you might encourage and increase engagement, and may even help you uncover flaws in your idea or message that you missed (and give you a chance to fix them).

Planning to Spread WorksheetHappy spreading!
(and please let me know in the comments below any things I might have missed)

So what am I trying to spread?

Well, in the run up to my second book (this time focusing on the best practices and next practices of organizational change), soon I will be releasing a new collaborative, visual change planning toolkit to help organizations work smarter by planning their change initiatives (and projects) in a less overwhelming, more human way that will help get everyone literally on the same page.

This is the idea that I will be spreading and there are many ways that you can benefit.

One way is by becoming a case study volunteer. I’m looking to select a handful of companies to teach how to use the toolkit for free and feature their experience in my next book on the best practices and next practices of organizational change. If you would like to get a jump on the competition by increasing your speed of change (and your ability to work smarter), register your interest here.

But there are several other ways you can benefit, and all of them can be found here (including upcoming chances for consultants to train on the methodology and boost their revenue and success as they work with their clients around the world to deliver positive change). I’ll be focusing on teaching and tools, not consulting.

What message or idea are you trying to spread?

About Braden Kelley

Braden Kelley is a popular innovation speaker and workshop leader, helps companies build innovation cultures and infrastructures, and plan organizational changes that are more human and less overwhelming. He is the author of Charting Change from Palgrave Macmillan and Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. Braden has been advising companies since 1996, while living and working in England, Germany, and the United States. Braden earned his MBA from top-rated London Business School. Follow him on Twitter and Linkedin.
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