2012 / 7 May

Does Something “Going Viral” Spell Instant Social Media Success?


Does Going Viral Really Spell Success?We all want to “go viral” right?  In the world of social media marketing, word of mouth marketing or link baiting, one of the ultimate attainments of any marketer is to claim that you had one of your social media content pieces “go viral”.  Going Viral means that your content that you’ve provided to your audience whether it’s a video, a blog post, an audio clip, an interactive flash game or even a photo has really connected with your audience enough that they have felt the need to pass it on, and their audiences have passed it on and so forth that this “spread” or “viral” passing on is now bring you new visitors to your content (and hopefully your site) in masses that are not normally seen to your site.

Content Going Viral is Great! – Right?!

I ask this because in most cases when something catches on or “goes viral” it happens by happenstance, accident or just pure luck.  Companies put something out on their site with no plans on how to capitalize on the attention a media content piece gets once it does go viral.  There’s no goals set, there’s no actions to be taken, there’s no accountability.  Let’s just “shoot video” and put it out there.  Let’s just make this cool game and put it out there!  People will love it and people will come to our site.

Great! Awesome! Boo-Yah!  They love it, they come to your site, they see your picture, watch your video or play your animated flash game, but what do they do next after maybe sharing it with their friends?

How Are You Measuring Your Viral Marketing Success?While gaining links to your viral content is cool and while attracting the people to your site through viral content is cool, at the end of the day has it done anything to lift your brand perception or raise your bottom line by those visitors doing some other action other than viewing the viral content?  As someone who came from the search engine optimization (SEO) world I understand the implications of gaining links via viral content, and the affects of the influx of traffic can have.  But here’s the thing, are the links really pointing to the content you really want to be known for, or is it just for that one viral piece.

There’s a colleague of mine in the search marketing industry who created this flash game for Christmas time.  This flash game hit it viral pretty big and every year around this time, he sees the traffic spike again because people love to play this game that involves reindeer and Santa.  All of a sudden around November it’s “new” again and people pass around the link.  The game draws a lot of traffic to the page and that page has gotten a lot of links.  You think that would be awesome right?

Here’s the reality of the viral piece – All of that “Viral Traffic” hasn’t lead to any major leads or conversions for what he sells.

The game has nothing to really do with their business.  The people who play the game aren’t really their target audience.  There’s no action at the end of the game to encourage the player to visit just what their product can do.  The game itself has nothing to do with what the company sells.  While his “time on site” statistic and “new visitor” statistic rises, that’s not really telling the full story.  Of course they are going to rise because people are playing the game and passing it on to their friends – they aren’t rising because they are interested in the company’s products or services.

So when it comes to wanting successful “viral” content, there’s got to be a integrated marketing strategy spelled out.  Writing a list about top 10 Thanksgiving cooking disasters isn’t great viral content for an automotive parts site, but it could be for a company that sells pots and pans.  Make sure you plan out your online marketing strategy when it comes to creating viral content, too, not just let it be another list item in the list of marketing tactics your agency has told you to deploy.  While accidental “viral” content can be seen as “hip & cool”, and maybe you might not have planned for it to go “viral”, you can still have it benefit your bottom line.  Take some time to figure out how it can positively affect your company, brand, products or services and re-adjust that “accidental viral content”.

If you are planning as part of your social media strategy to create viral content, make sure you look at all aspects of how it can positively affect your bottom line.  From increased subscribers to your blog to purchases on your site, make your viral content work for you, not against you!

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