How to make your employee comms go viral

Engaging employees means fighting for their attention and your employee comms are going up against social media heavyweights and the best marketing minds. To make your content stand out, engage, and spread like wildfire, you need to live up to rising expectations set by external marketers. So how do you create consumer-grade employee comms that go viral internally?

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Viral employee communications that take the workplace by storm

Producing viral content is the dream of every brand, influencer, and marketer. A campaign that goes viral can reach millions of people, capturing attention and boosting brand recognition more than perhaps any other form of marketing. In the modern world of work, internal communicators increasingly need to think and act like marketers. Employees want the same level of communication at work as they get at home as consumers, so the pressure is on for internal communicators to get creative in the fight to engage.

"To evolve as communicators, we need to consider how to shift outside of a static, single channel for the 9 to 5, and consider the enriching content we see in our personal lives. We need to move into shorter, bitesize chunks and snippets of audio and video to help employees digest information when they want to."

Ben Reynolds - Global Practice Managing Director at Gallagher Communication

Using data to inform strategy, automating and optimizing campaigns, and targeting specific workforce segments are all common features of a modern employee engagement strategy - but what about the content itself? Can internal communications go viral like their external counterparts? And, if so, what makes a campaign go viral?

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How to supercharge your internal comms

In today’s workplace, effective internal communications are vital to business success. Engaged employees are a company’s greatest asset, but with the workplace transforming at pace, the way we communicate must adapt. This comprehensive guide offers a collection of insights to support internal communicators to supercharge their strategy for the future of work.

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With digital tools now dominating the workplace communications space, the time is ripe to create internal campaigns that take your workplace by storm. The rise of enterprise social networking and digital communications platforms means that internal communicators now have the opportunity to communicate with employees like customers, creating campaigns that are designed to be shared like their marketing-grade equivalents. So where do you start with creating a viral campaign that employees can’t stop sharing?

Your six-step guide to taking employee comms viral

To spread across your workforce and make an indelible mark on those that see it, there are a few marks your content needs to hit. Below are six steps to take you on the journey to world domination.

#1. Check your tech

Without the right technology in place, it’s going to be difficult to create a viral campaign. For comms to go viral, users need a way to share and interact with content. So, step one for launching your viral campaign must be ensuring the technology you have in place is up to the job. To truly engage your workforce with communications, you need a dynamic platform that gives you the power to take communications viral. Social features, multi-channel delivery, mobile access, multi-media formats, notification features: all of these elements will be critical for driving the virality of your message.

So if you have a central communications platform, like a modern intranet or employee experience platform, you’re already well on your way. If you don’t, and you’re simply relying on email and word-of-mouth, your job is harder, but not impossible.

Consider all the channels at your disposal and think about not only how you will deliver your content to your users, but how those users can share and interact with it. Having an intranet or employee experience platform that centralizes your communications and gives employees the opportunities to respond makes life a lot easier when it comes to creating engaging communications, so if this isn't something you already have in place, it's well worth investigating. 

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#2. Define your purpose

Viral content tends to be somewhat shallow. By that, we mean that it’s usually short, sweet, and provokes an instant reaction. However, often what you see on the surface links back to a deeper purpose. Take for example the ALS ice bucket challenge, a trend that stormed the web back in 2014 with everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Bill Gates taking part. The relationship between a bucket of ice and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis may not be immediately clear, but the resulting $115m in donations that were raised as a result of the challenge meant that the campaign was an overwhelming success.

What we can learn from this is 1. People like a challenge and 2. Your viral campaign doesn’t always have to be directly linked to the subject matter itself. Once you’re clear on your purpose, the rest will follow naturally. The key to getting your message out there isn’t necessarily plastering your mission all over the content, but finding clever ways to incite interest that will lead to more meaningful engagement.

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#3. Hashtags are non-negotiable

Hashtags might just be the greatest invention in modern times… for marketers at least. The power of a hashtag to unite dialogue around a specific topic is undeniable, and for your viral campaign to take off you need to give it a punchy headline that employees can get behind. The key to developing a good hashtag is to keep it short and make it memorable – whether that’s a play on words or a ‘does-what-it-says-on-the-tin’ job. The main thing is not to overlook the importance of your hashtag and to ensure it’s front and center of your campaign, so employees know what to include when they share your post. #WeFavourCapitalizedWords to avoid any ambiguity.

#4. Content is king

Now it’s time to get down and dirty with what your sharable campaign cornerstone will be. You know what the purpose of your campaign is, you know how users will share the content, and you know you need a great hashtag, but what on earth is your break-the-intranet-style content going to be?

There are a few ways you can start brainstorming this and the first is to take a leaf out of the consumer playbook. External marketers have been hard at work testing various methods for creating viral content since the dawn of the internet, and thanks to them we have a lot of best practices to learn from.

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As we mentioned, challenges are an instant winner when it comes to engaging an audience. Anything that incites our competitive nature is likely to pique people’s interest. But there are many more ways to skin a cat, and what really makes content resonate comes down to these three things:

Is it emotive?

To get people sharing your content you want to inspire a reaction. Whether that’s laughter (see Charlie Bit My Finger) or outrage (think #Kony2012), emotive content is 28% more likely to go viral.

Is it practically useful?

If it’s not funny or outrageous, you’d better hope it’s practically useful. Take the endless amount of "life hacks", makeup tutorials, and 30-second cooking recipes that frequently take over TikTok, like the baked feta pasta trend with nearly 1bn views that even led to shortages of feta cheese in some countries - rewarding viewers’ time with useful knowledge is another surefire path to viral success.

Is it visually engaging?

They say we eat with our eyes and the same is true for viral content. If you want to grab employees’ attention, plain text is probably not going to work. In our content-saturated modern day, eye-catching visuals are a must for getting content off the ground. Video is an obvious starting point, but colorful imagery or audio-only can work just as well. And if you need proof, just think back to our favorite Korean pop star and go Gangnam style.

If you tick one or more of those key boxes, you’re probably on to a winner.

#5. Follow the trends

If you’re still unsure about how to create that blinding piece of content that sits on the surface of your campaign, fear not. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel to launch a successful viral campaign and novelty isn’t necessarily everything. Take a look at what’s already trending to get inspired. Turn to tools like Google Trends to see what topics are blowing up, hop on Twitter and look at the trending hashtags, or get really down in the details and check out your internal platforms for top-performing content and social posts to see what your users are already excited about.

Viral content is designed to boost your culture as much as it feeds off it, so reading the room is a great place to start when it comes to brainstorming ideas for the next big thing. Going viral is 50% content and 50% timing. To truly set your social feed on fire, you need to have your finger on the pulse of what’s hot and what’s not.

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#6. Line up your early adopters

Every organization has some enthusiastic trend-setters that you can rely on to influence the rest of the cohort. You may already have a set of employee advocates or internal influencers you can leverage to kick your campaign off to a flying start, but if not, now’s the time to form your dream team. Try to find employees from a range of departments and locations to ensure good coverage and whet their appetites with a first look at your campaign plans. Their feedback might inspire some pertinent last-minute tweaks, but failing that, they will be the ideal group to get the ball rolling and set the tone for a viral storm. Keep them abreast of your campaign timings and on go-live day you can be sure you’ll have an army of engaged users that will make sure your campaign doesn’t land flat.

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#7. Get your metrics

No marketing-grade campaign is complete without success measurement. If your campaign has gone viral, you’ll know about it, but even so, you want hard data to back up your hunch. Track the efficacy of your campaign using engagement analytics that show how many shares, opens, and reactions your content generated. Which workforce segments engaged the most? What times and days did you see the most engagement? What devices and channels were employees sharing on? Looking into these details will help you build on your success in the future and create more campaigns that set your communications strategy alight.


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#8. Work smarter, not harder

For years, marketers dreaming of taking their ads viral have turned to automation to make it a reality. Now, internal communications can do the same.

Unily's latest feature - engagement automation - allows content creators to take advantage of marketing-grade campaign builders to plan, build, target, and automate their comms campaigns from one hub. Take the element of luck out of viral comms by launching campaigns across multiple channels, gaining in-depth data on your audiences and their preferences, and using that to optimize those same campaigns for lasting engagement. Plan out timelines, benchmark goals, trigger workflows, and measure success all from one platform. Give your comms every chance it needs to reach people where they work, get people sharing across channels, and take your content viral.


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Take your workforce by storm with an engaging communications platform

Employees can’t share your content to take it viral if they don’t have the right platform in the first place. To find out how an engaging communications platform helps give your content the attention it deserves, speak to an expert today.

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