Why 'going viral' isn't what a marketing campaign should center around


The digital marketing world has exploded over the last 20 years, and everyone’s favorite search engine, Google, has had a major influence over the channels that we marketers work with on a daily basis.

According to Business Insider’s, Here’s a reminder of just how huge Google search truly is, in 1998, the year Google officially launched, the average amount of search queries per day was roughly 500,000. Fast forward 18 years to 2016, that number has reached an astronomical 2.3 million search queries per second. Now, just in case that didn’t fully sink in, that equates to roughly 100,000,000,000, or one hundred billion, search queries per month. That same article also explains that since October 2015, more than half of those Google searches are happening through mobile devices, and that number is only going to rise.

The point I’m making here is that there is an endless amount of content out there and it is all, very literally, available at your fingertips. So, why shouldn’t ‘going viral’ be the center of your marketing campaign, you ask? It’s because unless your company is paying $5 million dollars at Super Bowl 50 to haunt the dreams of innocent Americans with a horrifying mixture of the three things we love most, ‘puppymonkeybaby’, it is an extremely unrealistic goal.

Now, my intent here is not to burst everyone’s viral bubble, but rather to help set reasonable expectations for marketing campaigns everywhere. Here are 3 reasons why ‘going viral’ is not a smart content marketing strategy:

  1. The Odds Aren’t In Your Favor

It may seem somewhat shocking due to the amount of absurdly stupid things that have gone viral, but it’s actually extremely difficult for marketers, or anyone for that matter, to ‘go viral’. In fact, only 15% of advertisements ever achieve such a distinguished title. It’s possible to publish hundreds, or even thousands, of educational and insightful content and not have any of it go viral. This can be chalked up to 2 reasons; first, people aren’t typically mass-sharing content about ground-breaking advancements in science – instead they’re sharing ‘Damn Daniel’ over 12 million times. Second, the colossal amount of content available to us makes the odds of having your content go viral very, very slim.

  1. Useful Content Will Prove More Beneficial in the Long-Run

As we’ve all probably realized, content that goes viral isn’t usually categorized under ‘remarkable’. It typically falls under ‘funny’, ‘stupid’, or my own personal favorite, ‘funny and stupid’. And although the thought of having your content seen by millions of people is incredible, you should never sacrifice quality just to attract more readers or viewers. It’s not likely that you’ll gain a lot of professional traction with humorous or ridiculous content, so focusing on producing educational and useful content that provides value to readers will prove much more beneficial in the long-run.

  1. Maintaining Brand Standards

A lot of reputations have been ruined or, at a minimum, moderately damaged by a bad advertisement that went viral. And lucky for us, a handful of these were concentrated into this year’s Super Bowl 50.

Mountain Dew’s failed attempt aside, Super Bowl 50 graced us all with some pretty awful viral advertisements. We got to see the evolvement of the iconic prescription drug ‘cartoon’ with Xifaxan’s release of an IBS-suffering, pink-colored intestine that bounced around a football stadium for an entire minute. We watched LG exploit every character ever played by Liam Neeson with a confusing promotion for their OLED TV. And we got to see rock icon Steven Tyler’s full musical range in a flopped Skittles commercial.

5 million dollars and over 114.4 views later, none of these brands accomplished anything but a tarnished reputation. Obviously with brands like Skittles and LG, a poor viral advertisement isn’t going to have many long-lasting effects, but the takeaway should be the same; bad advertisements or content seen by millions can give consumers a negative perception of your brand.

Viral recognition has been widely sought-after ever since digital marketing became a major driver in consumer influence. However, abandoning authentic, educational, and valuable content solely to attract more viewers or readers is not an effective content marketing strategy. So rather than focusing your efforts on ‘going viral’, leverage an inbound marketing agency to aide in the production of marketing materials that provide consumers with remarkable content that will better attract, convert, close, and delight them.

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