The Thing About Viral Content…


It’s funny to see people talking about ‘making a viral video’. ‘So, we’re going to make a viral video and that will get us heaps of attention, then we’ll convert that into profit’. That’s basically the gist of these conversations, the idea being that making a ‘viral’ video will be a key peg of their marketing strategy. ‘What do we want in our viral video?’ ‘How do we make it go viral?’ The term ‘viral’ is applied like any other buzzword, and spouted out as if it’s a strategy in itself.

But here’s the thing – what you’re actually saying is ‘we’re going to intentionally make a video that’s going to be shared beyond the realms of our own expectations – we can’t even establish expectation for how well it’s going to go – and spread through the internet at an uncontrollable rate, like a virus’. What you’re saying is ‘we’re planning on winning the lottery ’. Granted, winning the lottery is far more reliant on luck and chance, but the nature of viral content is somewhat similar – you can’t plan on creating content that will go viral. No one knows, for sure, what’s going to go viral, no studies can specifically define the elements required – if they could, everyone would follow those guidelines and everything would ‘go viral’, which, by extension, would mean nothing would, as they’d all be shared the same amount.

You can’t plan on creating viral content. You create the best content you can, based on audience research, analytics and experience. Creative content can play a part in this, informative content can. Producing the best content should always be the aim with every post, every video, every podcast. And hopefully, by doing the necessary groundwork to ensure your content is of the highest quality and hits the right nerve, your piece becomes popular as a result, and, if you’re lucky, you might come across an idea that’s so resonant, so brilliant that it goes viral – it gets shared at an incredible rate, it reaches out beyond any expectations you may have had, and it gets you massive amounts of exposure and attention. That’s always the dream, the pot of gold, sparkling on the distance. But you can’t plan on this.

Definitely, there are lessons to be learned from viral content, there are things you can take from all the studies and analysis of every successful campaign, and all of this is worth reading, absorbing as much as you can to help improve your own efforts. There are new posts being shared every day by thought leaders, new things being tried and tested – learning all you can about what works will definitely increase your chances of creating a viral piece, but the point here is that you can’t plan on something going viral. ‘Creating viral content’ is not a plan, it’s a goal, it’s something that comes as a result of being in tune with your brand mission, offerings and audience and finding that perfect balance that resonates in between. What do people respond to? What do people want from your brand? How can we create something that people will feel compelled to share? Humour, emotion, innovation – these are some of the many elements you can utilise to create a great campaign.

And that’s the key here. You can’t plan on making ‘viral’ content, but you can plan on making ‘great’ content. Content that inspires and amazes, content that underlines the key messages of your brand and speaks to your target audience. For every piece of work you produce, your audience needs to be front of mind. Understand them, their perspective, and work with all the data and intelligence you have to create the best work you can to communicate your brand. Planning on great, even amazing, content is far more tangible than aiming to ‘go viral’.

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