Going viral has become the most sort after prize for companies seeking to gain an advantage in advertising, and to individuals looking for their ten minutes of fame. From a brand perspective, if a product or campaign were to go viral it would cause a surge of often positive engagement not only from an existing audience but from those you never could have imagined reaching. It can be incredibly satisfying to see something you’ve worked hard on take off in such a big way, however consistent growth over time isn’t to be completely dismissed in favour of this form of instant gratification. Each has their plus sides and their negatives.
When you think of ‘going viral’ there are a number of campaigns, challenges and debates that are instantly recognisable as the pillars of this particular trend.
Managing to go viral can transform your company overnight, and can be especially desirable for start-ups. The wave of market interest will pull at the wallets of investors and can give a sense of security you might otherwise have been lacking.
The ALS Association exploded with the Ice Bucket Challenge which saw awareness for the disease spiking after high profile celebrities got involved. It brought down the average age of donators from 50 to 35 and two years after people had stopped being tagged to take part, donations were found to be 25% higher than prior to the viral campaign.
A lasting boom in followers across social media isn’t likely to dissipate if your brand becomes the word on everybody’s lips. A key example of this is World Record Egg an Instagram account, who sort to get more likes on a picture of an egg and beat out Kylie Jenner who held the world record. The picture was uploaded January 4th 2019, and succeeded by gaining over 50million likes on its primary photo. Two years later and the page, which now posts comic strip animations of the world record egg may no longer be newsworthy, but it retains a reach of 5.6million followers.
They say that there is no such thing as bad publicity, but having your brand negatively associated is never an objective. The heavy price for going viral is that it might not turn out the way you’ve planned - after all, it’s down to the perception of the people who comment and share.
Pepsi took the hit in 2017 when their message of peace was instead seen as a minimalisation of the movement of protesting and that social injustice could be solved by a can of Pepsi. The brand faced global backlash and received no reprieve. Even their apology was snubbed.
“Going viral” is not a marketing campaign, but the result of successful marketing, and even sometimes that doesn’t do it. You can stay on top of trends and interests, but ultimately it can’t be projected as the variables are unchartable. Striving for that widespread reach as a primary objective will soon see you losing the core values of your company and relinquishes a sense of brand identity as you chop and change to please an ever untameable sea of users and consumers.
It might not sound as sexy as going viral, however, maintaining a steady growth or output is of the utmost priority for every business. When crunching the numbers and creating a marketing strategy for a product or launching your brand or service, you want to see that line curve upwards in your long term projection.
Strategic planning allows for putting trackers in place to monitor results. Whether your output grows or declines, your strategy produces a spike in engagement or fall in reach, you will have the data. The major benefit with this is being able to tweak your approach for next time as you are aware of what does and doesn’t work.
Twitter’s audience listening skills are second to none. Though it can feel like trying to appease a pack of angry wolves they are attentive to their devout followers. Twitter trialled a new quote tweet/retweet function but less than two months later reverted back to the original functionality after users complained that it was confusing.
Riffing off viral movements is a sound marketing strategy that many brands jump on, as it shows awareness for audience interest. In 2015, the White and Gold or Blue and Black Dress debate had the internet abuzz, and many brands ran with the already trending topic; Lego, Adobe, Specsavers and Domino’s Pizza to name a few. It was a fun and easy way to join the conversation and stay relevant to an existing audience, and naturally segue into gaining the interest of a new audience who were consuming every media to do with The Dress. This organic seeming strategic move has almost become expected in today’s tools of marketing techniques.
There really is no viable negative side to focusing on growing your audience, and or your product, steadily over a long period of time. The only consequence is if you are so determined to stay on your projected path that you miss out on the opportunity to migrate and evolve with the pack, or take a risk that could see you grow beyond your current sphere. You could see your brand slowly become a relic of days gone by, like the likes of Nokia, and Motorola, Bebo and Myspace. Sure, going viral may not have helped these companies stay afloat in the long term but it could have given them a boost to last a little longer than they did.
It’s possible to go viral as a boost and subsequently maintain steady growth for your company, just as vice versa, you could just be trucking along for years doing well as a company until one campaign makes you the topic of the week and sees a surge of followers. Whether you go viral overnight or are on a long haul journey for steady growth across your business, it’s important to understand and weigh both the positive and the negative aspects of each outcome.
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