Is going viral valuable for business?

Here’s a secret – you don’t have to go viral to have success on social media.

I admit, it’s pretty cool when your post goes viral.  And yes, you can work to craft virility – follow all the principles of making content uber shareable and even give it a jumpstart with paid promotion.  (FYI, I’ll be  writing an upcoming blog series about what makes content deliciously shareable!)

But I ask…

Is viral valuable for business?

Well… often not. Yes, there are some outliers where a viral post moved the needle forward. But usually, virility has little impact on the bottom line.


Whaaaat?  Really?  Mm-hmm!  

“How can a post which got so much exposure not benefit the business?” you wonder.  Let’s dive into the 3 major reasons why.

Your message (probably) got lost

Viral posts usually contain a mighty good story.  However, people only remember the most critical details – and even that can get lost in translation or changed. Ever play Telephone?  Then you know exactly what I’m talking about!


Let’s start with a typical Upworthy-style click bait headline.

This Guy Was Brushing His Teeth – You’ll Never Guess What Happens Next.

The headline wasn’t – This Guy Was Brushing His Teeth With Colgate – You’ll Never Guess What Happens Next.

Why?  Because the product wasn’t essential to the story.  Viral posts get people talking and sharing, but it only benefits the business if the product or service serves as a critical linchpin of the story. Otherwise, it gets edited out (either intentionally or unintentionally).

Having the product be an essential part of the story, or one which gets asked about, is how going viral can grow your business.

Say every time our guy opened the cap of Colgate a hologram appeared of a unicorn doing the Mexican Hat Dance, or his mangy hasn’t-been-to-a-dentist-in-decades mouth instantly transforms into a red carpet worthy smile.  Now these thing are worth asking about.  My toothpaste doesn’t do that – which one does?  Where do I get it?

On the other hand, if he was brushing his teeth and a crow flew in through the window and proceeded to chase him around the bathroom, the fact he was brushing his teeth becomes irrelevant. It just adds to the shock value of having something very mundane end up as a crazy tale.  

If he managed to capture a video on his phone of him fending off the feathered fiend with his toothbrush, it might go viral – but purely for the sake of entertainment.  It’s unlikely that Colgate will ever be mentioned or that toothbrushes will become the next self-defence tool of choice. (At least, not beyond waging the war on plaque.)


So you see the difference!  In the first examples the product became a talking point. In the second it was basically irrelevant.  Capture the benefit of virility by making your product or service an essential part of the story.

The message isn’t relevant

You film a cute cat video, slap your logo at the end, aaaaand done.  Cats always do well on the internet, this is a sure bet.

Is there the potential for a boatload of views?  Sure, people love cute cat videos. (Not that this is the recipe for virility, but cuteness sure helps.)

But unless your business is cat-related it won’t mean much, business-wise.  Luckily, I’ve got an example of one of those lucky businesses which can actually benefit from those cute cat videos – Eco Cat Furniture and their awesome Kickstarter campaign!

Cute cats are the ideal subjects for Eco Cat Furniture.  Showing the felines frolicking on the furniture and having a great time?  Purr-fect. It showcases how much the cats love the it and how stylish it is – with a dose of four-footed cuteness to boot.

 

 

But what if a bank tried something similar?  They film a cat hilariously playing with a toy.

Cute?  Funny?  Check and check. Relevant?  … Nope.

People might remember the video, but they’re not going to remember the bank because it doesn’t make sense. It would take something pretty clever to tie those two together.

It’s not a targeted audience

So a post was viewed eleventy million times. Awesome!  So many views!  So many people!  In the words of one of my favorite memes, Doge, “much wow!”

… But. But.

How many of those views are relevant to your business?  Probably not many.

For any message to be effective, it has to speak to the right audience.  A small targeted campaign which reaches the right people is so much more valuable than a widespread message to the (mostly) wrong people.

Let’s say I sell snowmobiles. I’ve created a fabulous ad campaign, a great sales funnel, perfected the sales page, got a massive budget for ads… You get the gist.

And then I launch the campaign in Hawaii.

Well, it’s no shocker that this campaign would fall flat.  Could it be less relevant?  Exactly.

For businesses, going viral may not be much different from this.

So don’t worry yourself sick over going viral

Most attempts at viral campaigns don’t move businesses forward because the message doesn’t get remembered, it isn’t relevant, and it doesn’t reach the right audience.

On the other hand, what I like to call mini-viral can be very useful.  This is when a post goes crazy on a small scale – like only within the relevant community.  Though the share, comment, and click numbers aren’t as high, it can be far more impactful for your business than those big numbers people typically think of as viral.

To viral-free biz growth,

If you have a business, come on in to my cozy Facebook group!  We love chatting about biz-centric stuff.  See ya there!

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