4 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Make Viral Content

Jun 10, 2021

Everyone wants to go viral. To post a tweet or video that suddenly makes them the Internet’s Next Big Thing™️. But the truth is that trying to go viral is bad marketing strategy. At best, it can lead to a brief surge of popularity. At worst, it can drive away even your most loyal customers.

Most content never goes viral

One problem with the “go viral” strategy is that most people don’t know what “viral” even means (including marketers!).

As Matt Rhodes of SocialMediaToday writes, most of what people consider “viral” content is really just “popular.” Content that many people have seen, but hasn’t spurred the creation of further content. Take the once-popular Ice Bucket Challenge. If the challenge had been only a solitary video that was shared or seen many times over, it would have been popular. Yet because it led to many other people taking the challenge and creating content around it, it was viral.

But most content never becomes popular, let alone viral. Unless you are a major brand or personality with millions of followers, chances are most of your content will never be seen by more than a few hundred people. Aiming for viral content means wasting time, energy, and resources that could be better spent actually improving your brand’s social media presence. Which, in the wake of the pandemic, isn’t a luxury most businesses have.

Aiming for viral content weakens your brand

If you’re reading this, chances are you either own a business, or work for one. Either way, your business probably has a specific tone, image, and community that helps make it unique and set it apart from other businesses.

Trying to create viral content completely goes against this. The most common way businesses try to go viral is by finding the latest trends and trying to add their own twist (which usually just means slapping on their logo). But the problem with chasing trends is in the name: they’re trends. And by trying to chase what’s here today and gone tomorrow, you dilute the unique identity your business has cultivated up to that point.

The exception to this are acts of corporate social responsibility, or CSR. The Ice Bucket Challenge, for example, was for a good cause: to raise awareness about ALS and encourage donations to ALS research. People love to see businesses show that they care about making the world a better place, regardless of if it’s a trend or not. Plus, if you don’t follow big CSR trends, there’s the risk of people calling you out for it. Long story short, it never hurts to do something good.

Chasing viral content leads to quantity over quality

Remember earlier how we said most content never goes viral? Well one side effect is that in following this strategy, businesses will inevitably slip into a quantity-over-quality mindset.

When you’re trying to go viral, suddenly every idea has the potential to make you the Internet’s next big hit. You spend time, energy, and resources on those ideas, only for them to never actually go viral. And because of how the sunk cost fallacy works, you’ll try to keep throwing more time, energy, and resources on those ideas, hoping to recoup your investment. All while flooding your audience with low-quality content.

Another problem with this strategy is that viral content isn’t evergreen. Think of that funny video you saw five years ago of a cat stealing someone’s cookies. Yes, you might come back to that every now and then for a laugh. But you come back to that recipe for how to bake your grandmother’s cookies far more often, which is what separates evergreen from other content. As one Wyzowl article poetically asks, “what does Internet stardom actually mean? Will any of those people remember or think highly enough of you to do business with you? Do eyeballs equal purchases?”

Trying to go viral can alienate your core audience

Perhaps most dangerous of all, trying to go viral can drive even your most loyal fans away from your brand.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that, as Keenability puts it, “The Internet hates try hards.” Most viral content happens to become viral. When you create content with the aim of going viral, you risk coming across as fake or attention-thirsty. And given the Internet’s current preoccupation with callouts and “cancelling,” this could make your business a prime target for attacks from the masses.

Plus, even if you don’t stoke Twitter’s ire, aiming to go viral still means targeting a mass audience. Which, by definition, means not targeting your business’s target audience. That might be an okay strategy if there were any solid, measurable benefits to going viral. But it’s hard to measure how Internet fame actually feeds into your sales funnel. You’re essentially abandoning your true audience for one with no quantifiable ROI. I.e., bad marketing.

The bottom line

There are countless marketing strategies out there with proven, time-tested results. Going viral is not one of them. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources to help you figure out what’s right for your business—like Boxless Media. It’s just a matter of finding them.

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