5 reasons why ‘going viral’ is a bad idea

You’re probably familiar with the term ‘viral’ when talking about online video, that phenomenon when a video gets released, shared, tweeted, re-shared and before long has racked up thousands or even millions of views.  For many novices it seems like the holy grail of video marketing, but the reality is that viral marketing is extremely hard to achieve, and unless you’re a very well established brand selling a mass-market consumer product then it’s almost certainly going to be an ineffective way of spending your marketing budget.  In fact, for most businesses, especially B2B services, it’s probably going to get you nowhere, and here’s why:

1) Mass market and your target market are not the same thing

Almost by definition viral videos appeal to almost everyone, it’s the reason they get shared and enjoyed and watched by millions of people.  But most businesses, like yours, aren’t targeting everyone.  You’ll probably have a certain fundamental type of person in mind you want to attract: potential customers who will be interested in what you do and have the budget to afford it.  That’s who your marketing should be targeted at.

It’s no good creating video content that will be watched by a million people if it doesn’t actually appeal to the main people you want to attract.  The chances are you’ll simply alienate your core target audience chasing people who don’t really care about what you have to offer.  Rather than diverting resources to appealing to the masses, focus on exactly who it is your company should be engaging with.

2) Metrics Matter

It flows on from this that if you do aim to go viral, and start racking up a decent number of views, when you come to looking at your analytics to see exactly who has been watching your video then you’ll be faced with a mess.  Who have you been attracting exactly?  Are these your customers or just people who watched your video?  Did anyone actually go on to buy something after they watched it?

By failing to focus on your core audience you’ll find it impossible to get any sort of clarity when you come to judge whether or not your campaign was a success.  What’s the point of getting a million views if none of them actually go on to become a customer?

3) It’s almost impossible to achieve

No one can predict whether or not a video will go viral, and if you ever see a company offering to create a viral campaign for you then warning lights should start flashing.  It’s an extremely random sequence of events that determines which videos get traction online, and something that no one can guarantee.

Almost all of the most watched videos on YouTube weren’t created or intended to go viral, it just happened by accident.  Think of the sneezing panda, or Susan Boyle singing Les Miserable, it’s not award winning stuff on paper, they just got a toehold online and it spiraled on from there.  The Internet is strewn with videos that have tried and failed to go viral, and the end result is a lot of wasted time and money for no return on the investment

4) You’re selling out

If you’re an established company you’ve probably got a fairly recognizable brand identity.  But when you start trying to make content that has to appeal to everyone you run the risk of compromising your image and putting things out there that conflict with your existing image.  If you’re a B2B service then you might not naturally have a product that will interest or excite millions of people, so when you start coming up with ‘wacky’ or ‘funny’ ideas to try and entice as many viewers as possible you could end up with doing more harm than good to your carefully constructed brand identity.

5) No one likes a ‘try-hard’

Nothing smacks of ‘try-hard’ more than someone trying, and failing, to go viral with a poorly thought out gimmick, and if you’re trying to go viral, then that’s probably what you’ll end up doing trying to achieve it.  Either faking spontaneously funny moments, trying to engineer a new ‘craze’, or thinking up some poorly thought out pastiche, it’s all been done before and 99% of the time it’s a truly cringe worthy attempt to force people to like you.

People who might have been aware of you as a potential business partner might suddenly see you as less credible, and new comers to your brand will be turned off by the overtly attention seeking intentions behind the video.

Hopefully by now you’ll have decided that going ‘viral’ with your video content should not be the aim for any video marketing project you’re setting out to create.  View count is not the main consideration, your target market is.  Create content that appeals first and foremost directly to them.  Make sure it’s high quality, with a succinct message and a decent call to action.  If you do that and it then goes on to gain traction and get a few views then great, as long as these are potential customers you’re reaching then that’s never a bad thing, but view count really isn’t the be all and end all of video production, and shouldn’t be the thing you judge a videos success by.  Leave going ‘viral’ to the YouTube cat generation, getting a return on your investment and place your core target audience at the core of everything you produce.