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No, Your Campaign Isn’t Going to Go Viral

Every agency kid working in Digital and Social has had a client at one time or another, give them a brief that says ‘make it go viral.’

Every agency kid working in Digital and Social has had a client at one time or another, give them a brief that says ‘make it go viral.’

Every agency kid working in Digital and Social has had a client at one time or another, give them a brief that says ‘make it go viral.’ And every agency kid who has had that brief drop in their email box has cringed and wished they were sitting on a Cuban mountain side, sipping rum and smoking cigars instead of reading that brief.

Hopefully, that agency kid will craft a respectful and articulate email back to the client that goes somewhat like:

“Dear beloved client,

While your [product or service] is certainly useful and awesome and has many customers who love it and who support your brand and like our cupcake photos on Facebook and retweet our hashtag competitions to [win something vaguely related to your brand or product or service like pajamas], no, your campaign isn’t going to viral. But what we will do is develop a campaign that will [sell, retain, improve, realign] your awesome [product or service] and support your brand’s proposition and be measured with clear and business-centric metrics to prove success and provide intelligence for future spend.

Kind regards, Head Digital Kid.”

For an insight into the charlatans on the interwebs, you only need to Google ‘make my campaign go viral’ to see how easy* it is to become the next Old Spice Man, or the next Blendtec Will it Blend phenomenon:

• Women more likely to make your campaign go viral!
• How to make your internet marketing campaign go viral!
• How to create a viral campaign; 5 tips!

Wait, only five tips to read and follow and you’re going to be the next Kony? Sign me up, yo.

The reality is that there is no proven formula to create the next viral sensation, and the interwebs is a graveyard of attempts of videos, photos, status updates and infographics that tried and failed to capture the collective and be propelled onto the next Ad Age’s Top Viral Ads of 201x lists.

Every minute, 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube, 347 new WordPress blog posts are published, 3,125 new Flickr photos are uploaded, 34,722 ‘Likes’ are given on Facebook and 100,000 Tweets are sent.

The chances your content will cut through, create buzz and go ‘viral’ within this whitenoise? 0.000000001%** And I’m not even a mathematician to tell you that.

You can’t make something go viral. You don’t decide, your Digital Kids don’t decide. Who decides what goes ‘viral’ is the audience; the online collective. And it’s indiscriminate and unpredictable and depends on so many factors it’s impossible to guarantee what happens once your piece of content goes live. It depends on the online environment of the day of publishing, who sees the content and feels compelled enough to share it, does it evoke an emotion within the collective, is it relevant to the masses, and so on.

While your Digital Kid should be implementing a strategy to guide the seeding of compelling content, ensuring that your owned and earned channels are relevant and high-performing and that conversation is supported and encouraged, they can’t predict the Digital Darwinism that will result once something is published.

The better strategy is to create content and campaigns that are purposeful for your business and your audience. Instead of setting an objective to ‘make it go viral’, set it to generate results for the business or brand. And by all means have some fun and create compelling content.

Because the interwebs doesn’t need any more whitenoise or headstones above videos sitting on YouTube that create a sound effect of crickets if someone actually clicks on them.

* It’s actually not easy, nor true. Google lied to you.
** Not a seriously calculated percentage but it looks impressively negative enough to support my assertion. I did pass math in school but failed Home Ec.

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Margaret Gee’s Media Round.

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