By @TheMarkDalton

“And what we will do is we will share it all over and get it to go viral…”

That is legitimately a conversation I overheard when I was getting the Luas home last week. On top of that, businesses are increasingly mentioning ‘viral marketing’ almost as if it is a tactic that they can deploy against an audience in the hope of gaining some ground in the market.

Right now, it seems that everyone wants to go viral. It is a marketers dream to get that 15 minutes of global fame. People have seen the rewards from going viral and they want to get in on the action and be able to count the € coming in.

The reality is that going viral is not an effective content marketing strategy and has no place in any digital marketing plan. Going viral is not just something that you can go out there and do for yourself, there is no recipe for it. Viral is a combination of timing, luck, perfect content with the perfect context hitting the right note. Did I mention luck? A lot of luck.

The odds are against you. You could spend years putting out thousands of pieces of content and none of them will go viral. So when you take into account that only around 15% of marketers around the world will experience viral success, you are chasing something which is so elusive it should not form part of your strategy. You shouldn’t be marketing with the sole purpose of “going viral”.

Content goes viral not only for the above reasons listed but because it also happens to catch a certain trend. Viral content comes out of the blue and goes viral for seemingly no reason. There is no reuse value in viral content, it is not evergreen and has a short shelf life.

Typically it tends to be light hearted content that does reach viral fame – a video of a cute cat or a funny meme. What has your business strategy got to do with that? Of course there are businesses who have experienced viral content but the success is far from long term.

Those first 15 minutes of fame? Well they are literally 15 minutes. Its the content that people remember, that is what sticks and that is what spreads like wildfire. Not so much the company, nobody remembers or for that matter wants to know where it all started. Nobody has an interest in the company behind the viral content. They care about one thing, the content. So how is that going to help your business?

There is also no guarantee that if you “go viral” all that traffic will lead to conversions. Most of the traffic will be for people looking for the content, not people looking to be a paying customer. A few months ago a puddle in Newcastle went viral on Periscope, the stream was run by an agency. Nobody would know off the top of their head what the name of that agency is, do you think they got great business out of it?

As an aside, that agency was not seeking viral fame for business, they were just having fun. However the point stands that you don’t care about the origin, you don’t remember that because you have no interest in who is behind it all.

Going viral is not always a good thing either. You can push out a piece of content which can go viral for all the wrong reasons and leave you facing a massive backlash online which can harm your company reputation. Especially if your business is small.

Instead, play with a long term strategy in mind. Don’t focus on viral content, don’t allow it to become part of your strategy. If it happens then it happens and you can deal with it at that stage however it should not be something you actively chase. Produce content that provides value, builds your brand and that you can share over and over again with an audience and still get engagement over time.

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