You can’t plan on it. You can’t create for it.
I see a lot of posts and tips on how to make your content go viral. Or how to get thousands of likes. Or shares. Or comments. I have a real problem with these posts. I believe these posts miss the point of marketing. They miss the point of what makes great content. And I think they are how we got into a mess of SEO shysters and gaming social media platforms.
It’s not all sunshine and roses
I’ve had a few posts go viral over the years. This one from a few years ago is one of my favorites—Confessions of the Office IT Guy—and while a lot of people liked it, there were a couple major negative consequences from it. First it completely hosed my stats. The “signal” from it was so strong that it drowned out everything else. I had to work analytics around that post to understand the rest of my content. And second, it didn’t drive a whit of business for the company. Yeah it felt good to write it. Yeah I think a lot of people might have resonated with it. Turns out none of those people were the people I was trying to reach to do business with us.
Have the post go viral was a rush. It was fun. And it set back what I was trying to do building a long-term content strategy. Answering why all the other content I created didn’t perform the same way was distracting. This is the essential problem with viral content: it’s unpredictable. There is no “viral content strategy”. It. Just. Doesn’t. Work.
Yeah, people may not like this
Creating content needs to speak to your audience and connect with your value proposition. You’re trying to not waste people’s time and make their day better, brighter, more interesting, or a touch smarter. That’s it. That’s the crux of creating great content. Trying to create something to go viral is chasing unicorns. It’s pandering to what is hip and cool at the moment. What’s hip and cool at the moment probably don’t have anything to do with your brand or value. It’s what is interesting. Like people (or better candidates for a Darwin award) jumping out of moving cars to dance next to them. It’s stupid. It’s dangerous. And it’s only a matter of time before there is an accident and someone is killed.
F*ck stats, make art
My friend, and fellow social media pioneer, Dave Olson did some amazing things in social media marketing when we were all still figuring stuff out. After a while, as the hype of likes, shares, comments, and views was all consuming, gave several talks (he gave one to my BCIT class) that was titled (or stuck to the theme): F*ck stats, make art. Crass and blunt, but true. Great art connects people. Great content does the same. Business marketing content can be fun to read. It can be interesting. It can be informative. It can be art.
Here’s the bottom line
If your marketing plan is based on having content go viral, have crap loads of comments, tons of shares, and go viral. You’re already lost. You’re chasing unicorns, making rope from sand, or any other metaphor you want for a fool’s errand. You can’t build strategies on flukes and luck. You build strategies on great stuff that helps people get a job done.
And if it goes viral, awesome. If it doesn’t, you keep plugging away. And I’m going to bet if you don’t care about the stats and make content with your audience and customer in mind, it isn’t going to matter anyway.