WTFriday: A lesson on viral marketing

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Still wondering why your Facebook feed went red this week? As two high profile same-sex marriage cases were argued before the Supreme Court, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) capitalized on the momentum of the movement by launching one of the most impressive viral campaigns in recent history, calling marriage equality the “civil rights battle of our generation.”

The HRC shared this red and pink version of its logo on Facebook on Monday with the following message:

Follow @HRC on Twitter and at for live-updates from the first day of the Supreme Court hearings. Make sure you wear red to show your support for marriage equality. And make your Facebook profile red too!

By  Tuesday afternoon, the post had been shared over 45,000 times and had received over 13,000 “likes.” Facebook claimed a 120 percent increase in profile photo updates over the course of the day.

With so many companies bent on creating “viral” messages, and their PR people pushing back with the notion that going viral is never guaranteed, it seems as though the HRC got it right based on five factors:

  1. Relevance: Marriage equality is indeed a civil rights battle, and the Supreme Court is going to make history on this issue one way or another. When presented with a watershed moment, take advantage. (And, if possible, get a Presidential endorsement the night before you launch.)
  2. Timeliness: The HRC shared the logo the day before the SCOTUS hearings began. It was immediate enough to be relevant, but there was also enough time for the image to spread without anyone feeling as though they’d already missed out. This particular message bears a certain timelessness as well given that ‘being human’ and ‘wanting rights’ probably won’t go the way of the Harlem Shake.
  3. Emotion: “The colors symbolize love, which is what marriage is all about,” said an HRC spokesperson. As the week progressed, the message of love, and how people demonstrated their love not just for each other, but for the things they care about, spread like wildfire. Logos made of bacon, mustaches, unicorns and the shapes of various states were created, showing just how deep and wide the demographic of support runs.
  4. Scope:  Though the cases before the Supreme Court were about gay marriage, the HRC’s focus on marriage equality for all increased its audience significantly. All humans want rights, right?
  5. Shareability: The HRC created an image that is easy to understand and hard to miss. Engagement was encouraged as the campaign gained momentum, variations popped up and the HRC featured a slideshow of its favorite memes. By sharing the image on Facebook, the HRC had immediate access to analytics and could easily see how the message was spreading and among what demographics.

Right message. Right time. Right on, HRC.

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