4 Reasons Going Viral Doesn’t Make a Damn Bit of Difference to Your Content Marketing Strategy (and 3 Things You Should Do Instead)

Going viral isn't a treasure hunt. It's a wild goose chase.

Going viral isn't a treasure hunt. It's a wild goose chase.

Every once in a while, a client will admit in hushed tones that they—or someone they report to—wants the content we’re developing together to go viral.

Usually, this is prompted by a couple of things:

  • If the client says they want it to go viral, they’re jonesing for recognition of their efforts.
  • If the client admits that their boss wants the content to go viral, it’s because their boss doesn’t really understand the point of social media or content marketing.

In B2B content marketing, going viral doesn’t mean a damn thing. And with all the other more meaningful objectives our content can achieve, going viral shouldn’t be one of them. Here’s why:

  1. Viral is a popularity contest. The beauty of content marketing is its ability to educate and add value to a customer’s experience. This is especially key in B2B. Going viral signifies nothing more than the fact your content has broad appeal. Do we care about that? Not if it’s not reaching and connecting with the audiences you mean to target.
  2. Viral doesn’t equal leads or sales. Marketing is about results. While going viral may increase people’s awareness of your offering (many of whom may have no use or interest in it), it doesn’t guarantee your sales pipeline will be filled with highly qualified prospects chomping at the bit for more information.
  3. Viral is a moving target. While some people specialize in creating viral content with some proprietary method or other secret juju, the fact is viral content is dependent on the whims and tastes of the community at large. Even from a B2B standpoint, mass appeal isn’t what we’re aiming for with high quality, high value content. Remember, the larger the audience, the more diluted the message.
  4. Citing viral as a goal suggests you need to refine your marketing strategy. Viral is so 2004. Using it as a marketing objective (officially or unofficially) means you need reassess your marketing strategy—and maybe how you’re approaching marketing altogether. Content marketing is about targeting your specific audiences through thoughtful, valuable and compelling content. 

So, instead of spinning your wheels figuring out how to get your next brand video to go viral, try these three things instead.

  1. Focus on your audiences. Many (many, many) clients don’t take the time to deeply understand their audiences before they launch into content creation. If you lack this understanding, at some point you’ll run out of topics. Take the time to explore who your prospects are and what they want from you—not only from a business benefit standpoint, but also a personal and aspirational standpoint. Then refine your message to target them specifically. Armed with this information, you’ll have endless content topics to explore.
  2. Find your potential customers and put your content in front of them. With a solid understanding of your audiences, you’ll know where they hang out—online and offline. That’s where you promote the high quality content you’ve created for them. Don’t make them hunt for it, and don’t expect them to, either. If your content’s not easily accessible, they’ll jump ship to spend time on other tasks with more certain returns.
  3. Establish yourself as a trusted resource. Your prospects are overworked, overwhelmed and need all the help they can get. Create content that educates them or helps them solve a problem. This establishes you as a trusted professional resource, so when they’re in the market for an offering like yours, you can rest assured you’ll make the short list (if they don’t go with you directly).

Viral isn’t a treasure hunt, it’s a wild goose chase. Instead, spend your time increasing your understanding prospects needs and motivations, promote your content where they convene, and create content that establishes you as a resource they can value and trust.