blog Post

Going viral isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Content Marketing
Content Strategy

It was Saturday morning, April 16, 2022. The day before, I had returned from a four-day road trip with my dad, driving from Miami Beach to Minneapolis. I was feeling thankful for the time with him and wanted to share that with my network.

I crafted a post for LinkedIn, grabbed a picture of my dad from the trip, and shared them both. Then I went on with my day.

A few minutes later, I heard my phone buzz with a notification. Then another and another. My post had received a couple of comments so with the algorithm in mind, I replied to those comments in a timely manner.

And then, my phone blew up. Likes and comments were coming in like crazy. Messages and connection requests, too. It was nuts.

I tried to keep up with it, but it was nearly impossible to do so.

That’s the thing about going viral that many of the gurus don’t tell you – that it’s a lot of work. I mean, what’s the point of all that attention if you’re not going to take advantage of it?

But that’s another topic for another article

I’m not going to dive into all I did to maximize this viral moment. Instead I want to focus on why going viral is not a viable strategy.

It is not predictable

For most of us, going happens. In other words, it is not planned; rather, it is completely random.

You could publish one thing and think for sure it’s going to catch and then…crickets. And then, you could publish something else that takes the internet by storm. And while that can be fun, it’s not sustainable.

Instead, you want a strategy that is predictable and manageable. It’s something you can do every day if need be. Going viral is anything but.

It’s not targeted

By definition, going viral means you’re not targeting the right audience. It’s something everyone enjoys. Of course, you may think that would your audience, and it does. For that moment.

Then, when it’s back to the drawing board of your “regular” content, your new audience – the folks that are part of your viral crowd – may or may not be who you want to attract.

It’s not sustainable

Here’s the thing about going viral for most people: it’s not sustainable. After you go viral once, the bar has been set and whether you mean to or not, you will put an enormous amount of pressure on yourself and your content. You will want it to perform well – and your definition of “well” has changed.

The bottom line is, going viral doesn’t always equate with delivering value, and that’s what people want. Sure, a relatable story or meme is always fun, but people will come back to over and over only if you’re providing some kind of value.

And usually that trumps virality.

How to bring value each time

It’s pretty trite to say you need to provide value, but it’s true. So how do you do that?

Dare to be different

There’s no rule that says you need to follow the crowd or publish the same content as everyone else. In fact, to stand out in a very crowded world, you need to bring the difference.

Be a contrarian. Challenge the status quo. Share a different perspective. My only caveat is don’t publish click bait and be smart about it.

Use stats and numbers  

Neil Patel preaches this and I echo it. Consider these numbers:

Facebook – 350 million

Instagram – 95 million

YouTube – 216 million

LinkedIn – 2 million

TikTok – 23 million

X – 500 million

This is how much content is published on each platform every day. It's very crowded, with not much elbow room so to prove a point and make a statement, use data and numbers to back it up (see what I did here?).

Share personal stories  

We all have unique stories to share, you included. In fact, I started this article with my own story about going viral, and now look what we’re talking about. It’s a true meta moment, but one that’s important to underscore.

People like stories. They can put themselves in your shoes and relate to your experiences (or try to). And as people progress through a story, their brain releases chemicals to make them feel. It’s truly emotional and a powerful way for your audience to connect with you. And it’s all about connection.

Let’s recap:

Going viral is not:

* Predictable

* Targeted

* Sustainable

Providing value is and you can do that by:

* Being different

* Using numbers and stats

* Sharing stories

What did I miss? Let me know!

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