In today’s ever-connected social media world, some things just spread like wildfire. A Facebook post or an online video gets posted, and people find the content engaging or funny or thought provoking, so they share it. And then more people share it, and more people, and so on. Whether the original poster intended it or not, the post has gone viral. And while viral posts get lots of attention, it may not actually bring you any new business. (There are also, of course, negative viral posts, but let’s stick with the good kind of viral posts for this discussion.)
At StoryPath Communications, we work primarily with small businesses and small nonprofits, not major brands with thousands and thousands of dollars to invest in a marketing and social media strategy. Thus, we focus on creating a clear, consistent voice for the brand, engaging with customers in an authentic way, and most importantly, creating a plan that makes sense for the organization’s goals. Yes, for brands with lots of money to spend, there are certainly some things you can do to help encourage viral content online. But for the little guy? We believe you’re better off focusing your efforts on creating consistent content over time, not trying to make a specific post go viral to reach the masses.
Why not? Well, it all comes back to your business goals and your target audience. Yes, you certainly want to create content that people find valuable and therefore want to share with others. That’s a given. But viral content can quickly get to the point of reaching far beyond your target audience. Does it get your business name out there in front of people? Sure. Are those people who will actually come to your store and buy your product? Some will, but most won’t. If your goal is to reach a specific niche market with a “shop local” attitude, viral content that spreads far beyond your community doesn’t align with that goal.
From a small business perspective, you also have to consider if viral content will overwhelm your current infrastructure. Let’s say you have a widget to sell to the people of Oklahoma City, but you make a great video that goes viral, and now you have people inquiring if you can ship overseas. If you’re not prepared to create a much larger quantity of product and ship it worldwide, you end up with unhappy prospective customers and possibly a lot of extra stress as a business owner. Now, if your goal has always been to expand your product line and where you ship, then now’s the time to do it (and hopefully you’ve prepared for it some in advance).
Again, it all comes back to your goals as a business. So when it comes to social media and the desire to make something go viral, think about whether it really fits your business goals. While investing time and money to “make” something go viral may not fit your business goals, creating valuable content for your target audience likely does.