This is what every startup, blogger or content marketer dreams about. Going viral. We did it. We just went viral! A dream come true. Not having to spend a dime on marketing our content or products ever again. From now on we will be on top of the game…
This is never EVER going to happen (and I had to learn it the hard way myself). Even though my number one advice to people that wanted to start a business was “don’t choose going viral as your marketing strategy” I never really had a concise and detailed explanation why it’s such a bad idea.
Until just recently when I talked to a buddy of mine about an article that went viral. He asked me why I didn’t write a post that goes viral. I told him why I couldn’t write such a post myself and tried to explain him the entire concept behind going viral. If I look back, the argument that I got into made me think a lot clearer why it’s so hard to write such an article.
Funny enough, I now had a detailed and crystal clear explanation at hand why it’s so damn hard to produce content or products that go viral and why most of us entirely misunderstood the concept of going viral. Plus I was able to find out the number one reason why things go viral.
And it’s not something like "get on the front page of Reddit", "use pictures or videos" and all that kind of BS. Of course I would love to get on Reddit’s front page. But how the hell do I get on their front page?
So here are some of the biggest misconceptions about going viral:
Our friends will share our stuff. Almost none of our friends will ever share our stuff, which is totally cool because they aren’t our target group (in most cases) and won’t read, click or buy our stuff anyways. In case they belong to our target group, them sharing our stuff might result in a lot of other untargeted leads. People that aren’t our target group either. In case you believe your friends might add value some value to the equation read “How to really help your friends grow their projects”, share it or forward it to your friends.
Going viral solves all our problems. No, it won’t. A lot of people think that going viral will magically solve all of their problems and make them famous over night. Problems such as a shitty product, a non existing market, lack of product/market fit, no new customer acquisition, bad conversion rates or the lack of sustainable revenues. But the truth is as long as we are still experiencing some of these problems we will never go viral and the desire might just make our problems worse. Only once we were able to solve our problems might we ever be able to go viral.
Going viral is a free ride on the global marketing rollercoaster. Yes, it is. But everyone loves riding rollercoasters, for free! I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t want to get a free ride. Unfortunately the same holds true for trying to go viral. We have to compete with folks that are highly specialized on this kind of stuff (PR & Marketing agencies, freelancers, etc.). The noise out there is just way too big and we are competing with way too many people that really know their business. Try to focus on solving your real problems first (see above).
Going viral is a great marketing strategy. Going viral is not a marketing strategy. Trying to get that one article or this one press coverage out there isn’t a sustainable marketing channel. Even though it might lead to a few customers, it usually doesn’t lead to an unlimited and sustainable flow of new customers. The only way how to have a consistent flow of new customers is to invest some bucks in marketing, be it social media, SEO, SEM or whatever channel works best.
On the flipside: If we know where we acquired our customers and we know the acquisition metrics (cost per lead, cost per paying customer, etc.) we have a way better standing in a discussion with a potential investor.
Now all of this sounds kind of plausible. But how do we go viral then? There is just one simple thing we need to understand if we want to go viral:
Where there is no audience, there is no going viral.
This means that we need to build a highly targeted audience BEFORE we will ever be able to go viral. If we don’t have an audience we own, chances are quite slim of ever going viral. Needless to say that a bad ass product won’t hurt either.
This is the single most important thing to understand behind the concept of “going viral”...