Over the last five years, the expansive world of social media has made viral marketing a reality. The days of massive advertising budgets and endless organization appear to be nearing an end, replaced by a marketing world where anyone can generate thousands, hundreds-of-thousands, or potentially millions of page-views in a matter of days using YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook’s ‘like’ feature.
But alongside the truly huge potential for viral growth is a very familiar situation – despite there now being the networks and technology for marketing messages to rapidly spread, most generate little attention and end up ignored. Some have blamed technology for the failure of manufactured ‘viral’ marketing efforts, but more experienced marketers have human behavior to look towards.
There’s a reason most manufactured viral marketing campaigns fail: most just aren’t good. Growth in marketing, particularly in an uncontrolled online world, is incredibly difficult to create. With the power of rapid growth resting entirely in the hands of users, delivering a marketing message that people aren’t interested in hearing is an impossibility. Simply put, manufacturing ‘viralness’ is hard.
There are examples to the contrary – Old Spice’s incredibly successful YouTube message campaign being one of the most obvious. But they’ve been less the result of specialist marketing and more the end product of great content. Most people would share the Old Spice videos regardless of their commercial affiliation, while few people would opt to share a video designed to create leads.
For marketers, it’s important to realize that viral growth is largely random and almost completely uncontrollable. Rick Astley’s ongoing comeback tour can be attributed almost entirely to his video gaining cult status amongst internet users and randomly spreading. Could another artist engineer a similar phenomenon? Unlikely. There’s an element of randomness to viral growth that’s organic.
So should a viral marketing campaign fail to catch on, don’t fret. The only way to control a random phenomenon is to create as many opportunities as possible. Old Spice didn’t win over YouTube with a single video – they posted several similar videos before one finally hit the mark. Let the random nature of internet growth control your success, and don’t try to ‘create’ something that’s organic.
Image courtesy of Microbes on Think Geek