A Conversation with “Mr Viral”: How Nonprofits Can Reach Viral Success

By Moshe Hecht

It’s time to switch things up a bit. In keeping it “present,” this column will roll out a 4-part interview series, featuring some of the most unlikely, yet on-the-pulse, individuals, who are shifting the landscape with their fresh perspectives on the nonprofit sphere’s most pressing issues.

Here, you’ll get insights from Meir Kay, viral internet sensation; Rabbi Simon Jacobson, critically acclaimed author of Toward a Meaningful Life; David Yarus, founder of popular Jewish dating app, “J-swipe,” and a surprise guest! Read on to learn about their approach to the most pressing nonprofit questions.

Watch the clip or read a synopsis of our conversation below.

Interview link: https://vimeo.com/336117940/6417dc1710

First up… Meir Kay!

Meir, you seem to be producing a viral video every other Tuesday. Is there asecret ingredientto making a video go viral and can you share it with us?

Nowadays? Absolutely. That secret ingredient lies in the “distilling process,” something that I find most nonprofits struggle with. Too often, they’ll try to cover way too much in a single video, and it ends up becoming too general. Effectively, in trying to talk about every little aspect of their mission, they lose the actual heart and soul behind what they do, making what could have been a great video into a bland and boring one.

What you want to do is distill that generality down into something specific: the human impact of your work. It’s less about showing an activity you provide, and more about highlighting the people who are affected by that activity, and telling that story. We are more likely to interact with videos which tug at our emotions. This is best done by appealing to our common “humanity.” Whether these appeals evoke tears or laughter doesn’t matter – as long as they feel something, you’ve done your job. My ‘Golf Balls’ video was about one simple life lesson: take care of the important things first, like family and friends etc. That’s it. And it garnered over 300 million views.

Say youve distilled your messaging down into the perfect message and video. How do you make sure that the right people see it?

You can’t just throw a few dollars behind a video on a random social media platform: it’s all about figuring out where your audience is and attacking on multiple fronts, simultaneously. You need a well constructed, carefully planned strategy that will ensure you keep the momentum strong.

The big social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat – each have their own age demographics. Tapping into the one that best suits your needs and not spreading yourself too thin ensures that you get the most bang for your buck. It’s important to note that it’s not all about YouTube anymore. Generally speaking IGTV (Instagram TV) appears to be the “hottest platform” for viral videos right now. But the power of the Facebook ad – cheap and effective – cannot be understated.

Aside from platform-based social media strategies, nonprofits should tap into global dates that align with their mission, think “World Kindness Day” or “Autism Day.” When the hashtag is already trending, it’s a lot easier to get new eyeballs, in addition to the ones you were going to get, that are looking for trending content in that space as well. Ride the wave! Also, the power of connections is essential. This includes your current volunteers and alumni, and especially any contacts you or they might have in the media.

Should nonprofits have a viral video strategy?

If you can manage it than yes. But keep in mind, virality doesn’t always translate into more donors. It’s more important that your message is true to who you are, rather than trying to be something else so that more people will hit that like button.

Above all, and I know this is diverging a bit, nonprofits have to remember that steady and consistent is better than trying to launch the next big thing. This is best achieved by having a year-round social media manager, someone who can spread inspiration throughout the year with people who can turn into donors or supporters. Algorithms switch all the time, but your messaging should stay constant and true.

What about organizations lacking the resources traditionally considered to be needed to make a viral video?

You don’t need a professional production to make a video go viral. The opposite is true, actually. Some of the best viral videos I’ve seen have been shot on somebody’s phone. All of us can remember a video done by, say, a local school where the teachers get together and dance or sing. Why do we like them so much? Because they are unexpected and raw. They’re probably not the best performers, but they’re going out of their comfort zone to show us their passion. My ‘High Five New York’ video was just that. A low budget video of me going out of my comfort zone to bring some joy to a few New Yorkers.

Nonprofits should remember to have fun with their messaging – if it’s fun for you, chances are, your audience will think so too and will want to share it.

Meir Kay is a social media influencer and global kindness advocate, whose work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Mashable, and Good Morning America. Meir’s videos have over a half a billion hits and has been praised for his extensive efforts towards trying to make the world a kinder place.

Moshe Hecht is a philanthropy futurist, public speaker and chief innovation officer of Charidy, a crowdfunding platform and consulting company that has helped 4000 organizations raise over a quarter billion dollars. His articles have been published in publications such as Forbes, Nonprofit Quarterly and eJewishPhilanthropy.

This piece is the latest addition to Tzedaka’s Present: A column on current and future giving trends and oppurtunities.