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Why “Going Viral” Is a Waste of Time

How many times have you heard this from a colleague or a client: “Your PR strategy looks great, but we need to do something to make this thing goes viral.”

I’m always a little amazed by the number of people who still believe that the Internet is magic, that if you can somehow manage to go viral, all of your problems will melt away and success will happen overnight.

Here’s the ugly truth: in a world of limited time and resources, your efforts are better spent elsewhere.

  1. Going viral is unpredictable. Unless you have the influence of Justin Bieber or the resources of Bill Gates, you have no way of knowing whether or not your new hot viral campaign will succeed or flop. What happens if it flops? Exactly.
  2. Trying to go viral a very expensive gamble. It takes time and money away from other things you could be doing, like building a great product and making your customers happy, both of which are far more likely to help your bottom line. If you have limited resources, spend them elsewhere.
  3. Even if you succeed at going viral, it’s no magic bullet. So your video got 5 million views on YouTube and your Facebook page has 200,000 likes. Did you make any more money? The returns of a viral campaign vary wildly, and going viral is no guarantee of business success.

Unfortunately, we can’t all be Old Spice Guy, but that won’t stop marketing and PR departments around the globe from spending vast amounts of time and money trying. Learn from their mistakes: focus your efforts on doing great work, building a great product and making sure your customers are blissfully satisfied.

If you happen to go viral in the process, that’s wonderful! Enjoy the ride. Just don’t let the hope of going viral distract you from what really matters – providing your customers with real value.

What’s your experience with going viral? Have you tried and failed? Tried and succeeded? Was it worth it or not?

Strategy