We hear it from both clients and marketers: let’s make this go viral!
This is not surprising at all. Just think, when a company puts out a Tweet, an ad, a video, or an IG post that goes viral, all the Likes, Views, Shares can get exciting.
Two million views. A hundred thousand Likes. Shares going up like crazy. But you know what? It’s all fun until the fun stops, and it always does.
Let’s all heed the wisdom provided by both research and experience: going viral is not always a good thing. It can even ruin your marketing strategy.
While going viral really does have benefits to a brand, these—exciting as they are—should be viewed in the context of a brand’s overall identity, messaging, and the campaign’s goal and strategy.
In short, don’t let the temporary high brought by going viral blind you into a false sense of success, comfort, or security.
An article over at TNS Global puts it very well: going viral is based on it calls an “attention economy”. This economy uses attention and popularity as currency, whether through viral social media posts, or influencers.
However, TNS Global also says that the attention economy is, to put it bluntly, obsolete. With the speed that the Internet moves and evolves, attention and popularity quickly lose value.
There are simply so many things going on in the internet—every day, every hour, something new grabs at users’ attention. The sheer number of stimuli makes it harder and harder to stand out, as users’ attention spans get even shallower and shorter—their brains simply can process that volume of content.
So if the attention economy loses value fast—what do we have that’s better?
Meaningfulness and relevance
The flash and bang of viral content are temporary. Still, even during its short life, it can draw a deluge of attention for a brand, product, or service. This can be good or bad.
It’s good if the conversation and word of mouth that follow the attention are favorable and sustained.
It’s a disaster if the conversation turns sour and instead generates mockery, disdain, or even anger.
Going viral makes a lot of noise—but in the end, you have to give your audience, your market, something more than noise. If not, they’ll just shift their attention to the next viral piece of content—leaving you in the dust.
This is where meaningfulness and relevance come in. Your more important goal is to achieve this, first of all. If you’re lucky, your effort goes viral.
But what if it doesn’t? No problem. That’s because you can take your time to build meaningfulness and relevance.
Even if you do that slowly, once you achieve it, the gains will not fade out fast. Certainly, your gains will last much longer and are more sustainable, than what a viral post can give.
Meaningfulness means, your message and your brand will stick in your audience’s memory long after they have consumed your content.
People easily forget what is meaningless. They hold on to what makes sense and adds meaning to their perception and interation with reality. Meaning makes memories.
This is what TNS Global refers to this as a “memory economy”.
What about relevance? Something becomes relevant if people perceive and believe it to be a significant and necessary part of their lives. There are quite a few examples of this arising from a social media campaign.
Girl Scouts USA
For example, there’s the Twitter campaign of the Girl Scouts of the USA. As many of you know, the organization raises funds by having Girl Scouts sell cookies door-to-door. The funds are used not only for the organization but for projects that benefit the community.
Nowadays, Girl Scouts don’t always need to go door to door. They set up cookie booths where customers can go to make purchases. To make this even more convenient, and to drive up more cookie sales, the Girl Scouts Cookie Finder mobile app was created.
The next challenge: how do you get customers to download the app?
Girls Scouts USA did two things: 1) Used Twitter to spread the word about their cookie finder app; and 2) Partnered with AppCard, a digital marketing services provider.
Essentially, this is what happened. Through AppCard, Girl Scouts USA attached enticing images of their cookies to their Twitter account. Besides that, AppCard allowed customers to directly download the cookie finder app via Twitter.
It so happened that, as their research showed, Girl Scouts’ cookie customers are heavy Twitter users who are active on that platform 24/7.
With these efforts, Girl Scouts USA achieved its goal—by being more relevant to the lives of their customers. They already had a market of loyal customers who loved buying their cookies.
Their next powerful step was to make their cookie finder app even more relevant by pushing it through Twitter, the platform where their customers are most often connected.
Now, if you’re a regular cookie customer, could you imagine yourself ever ordering Girl Scout cookies without that app?
Wendy’s Twitter account
Wendy’s Twitter account, with nearly 3 million followers, is simply an internet favorite.
The account’s Tweets and replies have become legendary for their quick, sometimes savage, wit. Here are some examples.
So how does this show relevance? Well, Twitter users follow Wendy’s simply because it’s fun.
With the internet full of snark, stupidity, and toxic opinions nowadays, Wendy’s Twitter provides more than just information on ads and promos—it can give us a much-needed safety valve: the chance to laugh our stress and problems away.
Beyond that, Wendy’s Twitter seriously and quickly addresses customers’ concerns with real solutions. And if it can’t solve your concern, at least you get some fun out of it.
Furthermore, Wendy’s Twitter sounds and feels authentic. It does not feel like a bot or some AI creation. It is extremely relatable.
Now, how’s that not useful in our lives?
Being relevant is not enough. You have to take that to the next step. Inspiring brand loyalty and building a community is the ideal outcome for your social media marketing campaign.
A community is simply a gathering of people—whether in real life or virtually—who are united by common preferences, goals, needs, and aspirations.
You can only build this if you keep sharing content that is fresh, relevant, authentic, and provides true value.
Your content should not only inform but also engage the mind, the senses, and resonate with the values that your audience holds dear.
The more relevent, meaningful, and authentic your content is, the greater your chances of building a community of followers successfully.
One example of this is the Facebook community page Kusina Sarangani.
Kusina Sarangani is a community of people who are very interested in bangus (milkfish) recipes. Bangus, of course, is a food staple for Filipinos in the Philippines and around the world.
This community is run by Sarangani Bay, a well-known exporter of quality bangus products. After the site’s inception more than a year ago, it now has around 215,000 likes with about the same number of followers.
These numbers might not seem too impressive from a viral perspective—however, the community continues to convert these Likes and Shares into actual sales. That’s something even more important than just a numbers game.
Sustained conversation network
Once you have your community, what’s the next step? Well, the best thing would be to have the conversation branch out into other communities.
This is the point where the existing community itself is generating more conversations until the main hub expands into smaller pockets of conversation that are still connected to your brand.
This means that awareness of and engagement with your brand on social media has become part of a conversation network.
At this stage, of course, you still have to do what you can to manage, steer, and stimulate the conversations. The globe-spanning expanse of the internet, however, cannot be fully controlled by one entity.
So this is where your social media team should stay on their toes and be alert for any turns in the conversation—good or bad—that you should stay on top of.
One example of this is ManilaMed, a private tertiary hospital in the City of Manila. By leveraging Facebook, the hospital established HealthLine, a medical talk show aired over FB Live.
In 2017, HealthLine set a record by garnering more than 2 million views, making it the most-watched medical talk show in the Philippines.
This helped draw in regular viewers of the show and in building what is now a community of nearly 200,000 followers.
Furthermore, the conversations around ManilaMed’s content has expanded into a network that includes patients, Facebook users, and the Philippine media.
Today, ManilaMed is seen as a thought leader and a valuable source of credible information for journalists covering urban health in the Philippines.
So should you go viral? Of course. But don’t let that be the main focus in your marketing campaign. If it happens then it happens. Let’s celebrate.
But for your overall campaign strategy, go for what’s meaningful, real, relevant, and sustainable. You’ll be glad you did.