Every once in a while we are approached by someone who actually says something like, "I'm really not into all of this social media jazz, but I know we probably need to start doing more of it. So we've been thinking... can you help us develop a [fill in the blank] that will go viral?" To which, I of course, always respond with, "Why of course! We'll get right on that!"
Social Media IS Stupid
Social media is "stupid." In spite of how it feels at times, it has no mind of its own. It only reflects the idiocy (or brilliance) of those who use it. While I thoroughly enjoy writing for our blog and interacting with others in the field through social media, I sometimes have the urge to do something crazy like start posting my political, ethical, or religious views. (Yes, I know, that would indeed be very stupid. But it is nonetheless tempting.) Fortunately, because I seem to have way too few hours to spend with my wife, family, and friends, I also perceive that spending the time to wax eloquent about those things will do little to bring me closer to those I love... and indeed, might even drive a wedge between us. And that would most DEFINITELY be stupid!
Social Media Is Powerful
There is no getting around it, social media is an insanely powerful communications tool. It has bridged the gaps of space and time, and brought the whole world closer together... or... has it? Words do indeed have meaning. Kind words can bind folks together, and harsh words can drive them apart. In business, just as is the case in our personal lives, sometimes words spoken or written hastily may have unintended consequences. Sometimes the things we say are funny, or clever. Sometimes they are powerful and effective. And sometimes they simply don't resonate with our intended audience the way we'd hoped. The one thing that can be said with near certainty is that the formula for what makes something "go viral" is almost always only clear once it has gone viral. Social media marketing (which is the practice of using social media platforms to market your company's products or services without being too obvious or pushy) certainly includes seeking to engage others. The more they engage, the more your content is seen and shared by others.
Social Media Is Most Powerful When We Pass It On
In spite of my earlier tongue-in-cheek reply, our counsel is most often, "Rather than trying to make something go viral, we should try to create something that is amazing; something that will serve a unique purpose; something that will be memorable; something that meets a specific need or passion or craving. If it goes viral, that's awesome. But our goal should be to provide something that offers value to our audience... that they will want to share with others because it moved them to do so." While I am confident that the advice is sound, it isn't what they wanted to hear, nor is it always that easy, even with those reduced goals and expectations.
There are some very gifted folks out there that reliably produce content that can capture the attention of a large audience. And once we trust those folks to do so, we regularly consume it, and we pass it on to others to consume. But even the very best of them occasionally produce a dud, i.e. a piece of content that is, well, just mediocre (at best). And it can also be said that someone can produce truly amazing content, and it go completely unnoticed by the masses [sigh]. Social media is stupid. But savvy content marketers can use it effectively to catch prospects' attention and—just perhaps—make them want to share their newly-found knowledge or insight with others.
If you'd like to explore how to make something go viral, honestly, we'd love to have the opportunity to discuss it with you. And while you might not like our honest answer, I think together we can perhaps find creative ways of catching and holding the interest and attention of your intended audience. Social media may be stupid, but our goal is to earn the position of top content marketing firm, or top inbound marketing firm, by helping our clients devise smart and effective inbound marketing strategies and amazing content... including social media marketing, that is a pleasure for their audience to pass on to others.