Oli Foster / 20th October 2017

Why going viral should never be your goal

In the landscape of Social Media, viral content always makes waves. Even one seemingly innocuous tweet from a member of the public can trigger all sorts of reactions and engagement.

Pretty much anything on the Internet has the ability to go viral. This process has catapulted a huge number of people into the spotlight of international notoriety, and has brought success to many.

Businesses have been trying to harness the power of ‘viral marketing’ since long before memes (content that is popularised, edited and re-used in this way) and YouTube began to shape culture.

Now, many companies are trying to create content that will go viral on its own, hoping to harness the power of social media and market to a varied, global audience without having to pay for an advertising campaign.

However, there is a crucial problem with this tactic. Going viral is not always a good thing, and aiming to go viral can in fact be harmful. Take this attempt by American company Redd’s Apple Ale. They were trying to harness the traditional text-on-image meme format, but instead were ridiculed for trying to “force” relatable humour.


Why this sort of activity is damaging to a brand:

  1. You aren’t being true to yourself. We talk a lot about branding here at Straightedge. It is important to know who you are and to put out messages that convey your purpose and beliefs. If you build your messages specifically to go viral, they are unlikely to  adhere to your brand principles and tone of voice.
  2. Making social media work for your business is about forming relationships. The most successful social campaigns are those that connect with viewers personally. These platforms are built to encourage communities to form. Placing importance on personal connections encourages people to form attachments to you.
  3. Brands must create content for the right reasons. If you create content for your own audience and it happens to spread, this is good, as you aren’t alienating your core base. But creating with the specific intention of going viral removes the personal connection and specific appeal of your content.

That’s not to say that going viral is always bad. If you are producing the right type of content and it happens to go viral, so much the better. The important thing is that the content is still true to you, built for your audience, and honest.

And just to emphasise our point, here’s an accidental viral moment that made for perfect marketing for GoPro: