If we do this crazy thing, will it become viral? This question has been asked in many client meetings I’ve recently been to, and is a very difficult marketing question to answer. I don’t want to crush a client’s dream of creating the next Gangnam Style or Harlem Shake. I love the fact that people are trying to think creatively. But for every Gangnam style, there are hours and hours of middle-aged fat guys singing Call Me Maybe.
Creating something viral while also trying to sell something is even rarer than being struck by lightening. It can happen on occasion, (check out Will it Blend? and Subservient Chicken) but people are savvy and know when something isn’t authentic.
Viral marketing is very much like being cool in high school. Everyone wants to be cool, but there are only a limited number of seats at the “cool” table. Giving yourself a snazzy nickname or dressing like the popular people doesn’t automatically get you a seat. Plus, think back to your last high school reunion, sometimes being the cool kid doesn’t always pan out.
Before you even begin to think about your marketing “going viral,” you need to consider the following rules of virility:
- Don’t forget what you are trying to do. In most cases, you are trying to sell something. Having something that goes viral but doesn’t sell anything is just a well-publicized failure. Plan your marketing strategy first. If something you are doing goes viral, great! But it shouldn’t be the primary strategy itself.
- If you aren’t one of the first to do something, you are just a copycat, and it could that have a negative effect on your brand.
- If anyone uses the following terms in your planning meeting, you most likely aren’t any of them: cutting-edge, avant-garde, trending, or viral. I’m also tempted to throw in “out-of-the-box thinking” to that list as well.
- If you have a plan and no one in your organization has brought up any concerns or raised any red flags about what you’re doing, then it most likely won’t be viewed as anything out of the ordinary. The most successful viral marketing programs generally involve some type of risk.
- You need a distribution plan. Simply posting something on YouTube doesn’t mean anyone will see it. Putting it on your own website or sending it out through your own channels can be viewed as self-serving . Remember that you can’t force it.
Having something go viral can be a great boost for a business, but it is also a huge trap. The greatest way to have your marketing go viral is to do fantastic, original and targeted work. Would you rather have a viral campaign or an effective campaign? So the next time you are in a meeting and your boss talks about having your campaign trending on Twitter, smile, listen to his or her ideas and gradually steer the conversation back to the fundamentals of marketing that you know will be effective, not trendy.
If you are interested in this article, you may be interested in our 10 Marketing Best Practices for Facebook. This guide provides actionable items to improve the benefits your company will receive from Facebook.