To view the full image above, click here.
Zack Exley famously said, “If a consultant walks into your office and says they can make your campaign go viral, throw them out because they don’t know what they’re talking about.”
His point is that virality is a phenomenon, not a strategy. You can replicate all the qualities of a piece of content that has gone viral and still not have it go viral.
What you can do is create a good piece of content with all the sharing tools built in, promote it via word of mouth efforts to key influencers with influential and/or large audiences and create the right set of circumstances that when your efforts hit a nerve, the content can go viral.
Now, just because your content doesn’t go viral, doesn’t mean it is a failure. A good word of mouth campaign can generate hundreds of thousands of views and shares of your content. But that outcome is the direct result of your outreach efforts.
Virality is when the spread of your content takes on a life of its own (hence the metaphorical reference to a virus). In a petri dish, a culture grows exponentially under its own power. That is the subtle line that differentiates good word of mouth campaigns from viral explosions.
So it is always ok to hope your stuff goes viral, but never plan on it. Always plan on a concerted effort to promote your content far and wide to your networks.
As for the image above, it actually speaks more to a good word of mouth campaign that could go viral than to a viral campaign. So the lessons in it are good ones.
Given all this, I think it is fair to say that “Viral Marketing” is like vaporware… it sounds good, but there is no there, there. Plan well, work hard, and get your content out there for the world to share. Just don’t call it viral marketing, cause it ain’t.