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HOW NOT TO: Go viral

If your content goes viral, it’s usually good news. But make sure you don’t fall foul of the booby traps that lie in wait for the would-be internet star.

Sit back and relax
From the outside looking in, content can seem to ‘go viral’ of its own accord. And sometimes this is true, but for the vast majority of well-viewed pieces of content on the web their viral status was hard earned. And it’s not just about sharing your efforts once on Twitter, you’ll need to tap into industry contacts, friends, family and any other interested parties if you hope to see your content fly. We’ll not even mention paying for views and shares here.

Build it in the brief
‘Going viral’ should not be an objective itself and, ideally, it shouldn’t really be used as a significant part of a brief to agencies and/or partners. Of course you want lots of people to see your marketing efforts but, as any B2B marketer worth their salt knows, it’s not all about numbers. It’s unlikely the teens lol-ing at your video are going to buy your industrial screws.

Do it on the cheap
There are relatively few examples of genuinely viral B2B marketing offerings. Of particular note is the recent Volvo Trucks video with Jean Claude Van Damme, but not every brand has the kind of budget required to deliver that kind of ad. It’s true that some things go viral without a huge budget but, make no mistake, they are in the minority.

It’s all about you
Relatively few brands are interesting in themselves. Apple is one of the very few examples that spring to mind. The Californian computer giant could release a video about the colour of paint in its toilet facilities and generate several million views. Your brand probably couldn’t. The vast majority of viral content does not tell a brand story. Fame by association should be the aim here.

Be careful what you wish for
As described above, it’s pretty difficult to see your content go viral and secure your fifteen seconds of digital fame. It generally involves latching onto a zeitgeist, and delivering something unique with humour. The easier way of doing it, however, is to draw attention to half-hearted misguided efforts. The internet loves an error. So much so that the old ‘no such thing as bad publicity’ adage is looking rather outmoded. 

See also: How not to use Twitter / How not to use LinkedIn / How not to do content marketing How not to use Facebook How not to use Google+How not to blog