“Viral content” is the buzz phrase of the social media hub, and has been for the past year or two. For many, getting your content to go viral is the ultimate big time, it’s the game plan, it’s the holy grail of marketing… But should it be?
Many have put their faith in the power of viral and people are spending huge amounts of money trying to get their content to “go viral” (because it’s what the cool kids are doing) without actually stopping to take a look at what their ROI (return on investment) is for viral vs long term social content. That’s because a lot of people don’t really understand the difference between viral content and social content. They might sound like the same thing – after all most viral content appears on Social Platforms. But they aren’t the same thing – not when it comes to a marketing and brand perspective.
The most resounding difference for marketers is this: Viral content delivers a message intact, much like a radio or TV ad. Social content allows the message to deliver itself in whatever form it chooses, and it comes with the backing of your loyal customers.
Yes, if you go viral there is a good chance that thousands of people will view your content. But a large percentage of those people will have forgotten your company name the moment the browser window closes. Just because they are looking at your video doesn’t mean they will buy your product – and just because they’re sharing your funny cat video doesn’t mean they are endorsing your product, either. And the audience understands that.
Social Media Marketing
When you nurture your Social presence, you may lose control of your message a little bit. People might not articulate your brand exactly as you would. But you are getting one major bonus feature with your social content that makes this worth the risk. You are getting your fans and customers endorsement.
We are well aware that people are far more likely to buy a product that’s recommended by a friend than one that has a great ad. Why? Because they trust their friends and connections to share their real experience. They also know that your ad is delivering a sales pitch. Between these two factors lies human nature – a deep seated distrust for advertisers (sorry, but it’s true) and an innate tendency to trust the advice of real people with relatable experiences.
That’s why websites like Trip Advisor and Hello Peter are so popular. If I need to book accommodation at a guest house in a strange town, I go to Trip Advisor before I make a final choice. You see, I already know what the sales pitch and rating is. That information is available to me on your website. What I want to know is what have other real life people said about the place? What was their experience?
Did a previous visitors complain about the linen, the food, or feel the advertised promises weren’t met? I know that this is where people will give their honest opinion of the place and it gives me a much better idea of what I am getting myself into. This is Social marketing.
Your Social content carries clout because it comes with loyalty and evangelism from people who you have already won over.
Viral content usually comes in the form of a video or image. It’s often humorous or emotionally provocative. It is something which people open, view, share and then usually forget about within a day or two. They don’t change it or give their own take on it. They don’t put it into their own words. The people they share it with understand that it’s being shared for entertainment value, not as a product endorsement.
What makes content go viral? The truth is it’s about 40% the right recipe of factors and 60% fluke. That’s another reason why the pursuit of viral status in your content is not a good basis for your marketing investments. It’s very unpredictable, and even if you do manage to get it right and achieve viral status – there is no guarantee that your exposure will convert into sales. Your ultimate goal in any marketing campaign is to convert strangers into customers – so it makes sense to find the path which is the most likely to do that.
Who has Viral Content worked for?
We have heard tales of great deeds…
It’s true that there have been some exceptional cases where viral content has sent companies skyrocketing to greatness. Everyone’s favorite story is that of the DollarShave Club. These cats launched their company with a YouTube video that got them something like 12 000 orders in the first 2 days (see below).
For them, it was the perfect platform. Their product is available exclusively online. It is geared towards the exact market who use YouTube on a daily basis. The positioning was perfect and, at the end of the day, they got lucky.
The video has a clear call to action, a clear brand identity, and a very definite message. They also happen to be offering a product that is used by millions every day, at a really great price, along with door to door delivery and other benefits. It was not just a popular video that made this startup a success. They worked on their product offering, researched their business positioning and their target demographic, and made sure they were ready to deliver on their promises. In short, they had a full marketing strategy worked out long before they filmed their famous video.
Can Viral Content work for your company?
It all comes down to what your product is and who your target market is. It also depends on whether you are willing to sink a lot of money into the production of content that may not ever get picked up and go viral. There are thousands of videos being posted every day. The chances of being picked up and going viral are slight. The chance of viral content actually leading to conversions is even slighter.
If you are looking for a marketing strategy that will build your brand and increase conversions in the long term it is better to develop a social presence through conversations and a long-term strategy. Rather focus on producing content that is true to your brand and inspiring to your market. If that content happens to go viral – bonus!