Why “Go Viral” Is Not An Effective Content Marketing Strategy
If you're trying to go viral, you're probably trying too hard. Columnist Rachel Lindteigen explains why you should focus instead on creating great content that matters to your audience.
Most marketers would love to go viral — they want that amazing pickup, millions of shares, tons of attention, the elusive 15 minutes of fame. Why wouldn’t you aim for huge success? It sounds amazing, right?
I want to go viral, sign me up… right? Why not?
Going viral isn’t an effective content strategy because it’s not something you can plan for, nor is it something that’s easily replicated for long-term success. Most viral content has a very short shelf life.
It’s the darling of the internet for a few days or a week or two, and then it’s gone. It’s forgotten, and consumers have moved to the next item.
Rather than having short-lived attention from fleeting fans, brands would be much better served by creating long-lasting strategies with content that helps their audience connect with them and their products. The reality is, most who aim for it will never achieve viral success.
It’s not that they’re not trying; it may be that they’re trying too hard. If your goal is to go viral, you may be so focused on your content that it loses its natural appeal and just feels contrived.
Don’t Go Viral For The Wrong Reasons
You could go viral for the wrong reasons: Mountain Dew’s Puppy Monkey Baby Super Bowl commercial went viral, but it was mostly due to the backlash over how strange people found it and the fact that it was nightmare-inducing.
There have been more than 22 million views of the Puppy Monkey Baby commercial on Mountain Dew’s YouTube channel. However, most of the user comments are negative. The sentiment isn’t positive.
But, Mountain Dew may not care — because the reality is that more than 22 million people have watched the commercial on YouTube, more than 10,000 people have commented, and it’s being discussed on other channels across social media.
However, creating content that leaves people saying, “The nightmares won’t stop” or “You know, my friends warned me not to look this commercial up. I should’ve listened” isn’t the best formula for long-term success and audience building.
Yes, you’ve reached a new audience, but have you created a positive impression? Probably not.
Focus On Producing Useful Content
Focusing on creating great content that people will enjoy and find helpful is a better long-term strategy. If something goes viral, great. But the reality is, most of what you create is never going to go viral.
I’ve heard viral success likened to hitting a grand slam in baseball. Sure, everyone wants it, but the reality is that very few will ever achieve it.
You can win a game on just single hits. You can win in content marketing by consistently creating great content that’s useful to your audience.
You don’t need to have the most popular post to be successful. By focusing on going viral, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
Most content you create will never go viral. But if you create useful content that your readers/fans/followers want to read, you’ll still have content marketing success.
Part of the reason it’s hard to go viral is that it’s really hard to predict what will be a hit. I doubt that anyone at Vans could have expected they’d be front and center in a viral video success story such as, “Damn Daniel.”
Joshua Holz regularly videotaped his friend, Daniel Lara, during sixth period at their Riverside, California, high school. Holz would narrate each one with a simple, “Damn Daniel” while showing his friend’s outfit and focusing on the shoes.
The duo took a number of videos and uploaded them to SnapChat daily. No one could have predicted this would become the next internet sensation.
If the marketing team at Vans set out to create an amazing viral success, they probably wouldn’t have focused on two teenage boys in Riverside and a pair of white slip-on canvas Vans.
Who would have thought this video series would lead to so much?
“Damn Daniel” scored 45+ million views for the original video (which has since been deleted by a hacker), an appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” eBay listings totaling upward of $400,000 for “Damn Daniel” shoes that may not even have been Daniel’s.
Vans didn’t set out to have a viral video success; this video had nothing to do with the Vans marketing team. This is user-generated content at its best.
Focusing on going viral isn’t the answer. You’ll go farther if you create great content on a regular basis.
Be authentic, be helpful, be real, and you’ll be rewarded in the long run. When you try too hard, it shows, and the audience doesn’t like that.
While most brands will never be the center of a viral success story like “Damn Daniel,” they can consistently create great content that their audience wants to consume.