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How Going Viral Went Viral
04 Jan 2017

How Going Viral Went Viral

A few days ago, while skimming through my Facebook feed (as I suppose I do every once in awhile), I saw a post that said something along these lines:

“If you want your company to go viral, comment here.”

The first time I saw the post was pretty early in the morning, and it already had over 100 comments. The next time I looked it had over 200. The post was from a person who has a big following on all of the major social media platforms. The more I thought about this post, the angrier I got. Right or wrong, the post symbolized to me a lot of where social media “gurus” have gone wrong.

“I made myself popular and I can do the same for you”

It’s possible that I misread the intention of this particular post, but to me, it seemed like the idea was that just commenting on the post would get your company a lot of exposure because so many people would comment. That might even be true to a certain extent. Like I said, the post was garnering hundreds of comments. There are two significant problems with this undercurrent of the social media world, however.

First, making yourself popular is actually a lot easier than making a company “viral.” When you are tweeting, updating, snapping, or Instagramming on your own behalf, you are writing your own story and/or your own persona. You can be a braggart or you can play the humble card. You can post whatever you want because, like it or not, you’re always with yourself. You have complete control over what you send to the online world, and while you can’t guide people to like you, it’s fairly easy to learn what gets you attention in the social media realm. Being able to do that is not the same as successfully making a company a social media star. When it’s just you, you’re the product. Companies have separate products, maybe lots of products, that they need to promote.

By the way, that whole products thing brings me to point number two. Getting popular online is all well and good, but most companies need to sell products in order to survive. It’s a minor technicality that tends often to be overlooked, oddly enough. People get enraptured with the idea of going viral, and they forget that getting a lot of video impressions, retweets, or “likes” does NOT ensure a rise in sales. Indeed, the failure to track social media ROI continues to be a major plague upon the heads of CMOs.

Don’t Believe the Hype

I guess I’m still a little razzled about that Facebook post. Like I said, it reminds me of how many people are out there making promises to companies that a) aren’t worth much and b) can’t be kept. If someone offers you a chance to “go viral” in some way, whether that way is a lot of retweets, 1,000 new followers, first position on the first page of Google, or something else, go forth warily. Remember, your goal is to target people who might actually want to buy your products. Popularity and going viral do not pay the bills.

Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/paulbrigham/9186408921/ via Creative Commons

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