Hannah Bauer

Going viral is a highly-sought after phenomenon in the marketing world. Though it may just sound like you’re catching the hacking cough your office mate has, going viral means your blog, image, video, whatever, is being rapidly shared online and getting massive attention. Every marketer’s dream, right?

I know it’s been mine. If something I wrote—either personally or professionally—received hundreds of thousands (okay, at this point, I’ll even settle for just hundreds) of shares and comments, I’d be over the freakin’ moon.

But it’s a dream I’m trying to let die. To quote a particularly viral song from a certain 2013 (cue the, “oh my God, Frozen is five years old, what is life” freakout) Disney feature, we all need to let it goooo, let it goooooooo.

The digital marketing gurus are full of advice for creating viral content. There have even been scientific studies on factors that contribute to virality. And don’t get me wrong—this advice is stuff we should all bear in mind when working on our content.  

The issue is you can do all of these things—unite people, increase shareability, take a stance, trigger emotions, find the right format, include puppies ad nauseum—and still not get the traction you want. The unfortunate truth is that there is no formula for crafting viral content.

Who could have guessed this would be so captivating?

In fact, sacrificing your message (“here’s content about our product or service”) for a cheap attempt to increase virality (“here are some try-hard memes”) will ultimately weaken your content.

We see so many viral things throughout our day via Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram and news outlets that we think virality is relatively achievable, but it’s not. While there’s more viral content than we can count, the amount of “regular” content is that times a billion (and that’s without assigning numbers to define what is viral).

Businesses and organizations don’t need to go viral to succeed. Many businesses today, both in B2B and B2C spaces, are serving niche audiences. Who cares if your blog post of beginner underwater basket weaving tips isn’t seen by 4,235,027 people? As long as it’s seen by 50 underwater basket weaving newbies who go on to buy your superior weaving material, that’s just as good.

Going viral is kind of like winning the lottery—if it happens for you, that’s awesome (though, like with the winning the lottery, it doesn’t always come without its drawbacks) but you can’t count on it. A solid content strategy that gets your message in front of the right people is more achievable and more powerful than creating content with the hopes that it’ll be seen by millions.

So focus first on your target audience, and if you’re lucky, it might just resonate so much with the everyman that it does reach that coveted viral status.