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The truth about going viral.

Viral (adjective) - quickly and widely spread or popularized especially by means of social media. (Source: Merriam-Webster)

But what does it actually mean?

Often seen as a holy grail of social media, going “viral” is about reaching lots of people quickly. It’s the modern equivalent of having 15 minutes of fame, just a lot shorter!

When you go viral, it’s often off the back of a post you share. However, it can be the result of lots of people sharing something that happened to you off social media. For example, a costume malfunction on a live TV show.

The reason people normally want to go viral is because of the exposure it gives you. Whether people want it for themselves or a brand they own, they believe that the more people who see them, the better it is for them.

Now, obviously, if you have a wardrobe malfunction on TV, that’s not great. Although, all PR is good PR, right?

So, in this blog, we’re going to focus on businesses, specifically small businesses, and creators going viral for a good reason. We’ll explore two key truths anyone who wants to go viral needs to understand first.

A couple stood at the counter in a coffee shop placing their order with the barista.

Going viral – Truth #1

There’s no set way to go viral.

Far too often, we get asked, “Can you make us go viral?”.

We’ll be honest, if we knew how to guarantee virality, we wouldn’t be sitting here writing this blog post. We’d be setting up our own B2C brand, going viral and raking in the money.

The reason there are no guarantees is because there are so many external factors that influence the success of your posts.

However, it’s not all bad news. There are a lot of foundations you can put in place to give yourself the best chance of going viral.


Going viral – Truth #2

Going viral isn’t always a good thing.


“Sorry, what!?” might be what you’re thinking. “How can going viral for a good reason not be a good thing?”.

Well, even if the reason you’re going viral is positive, it might not have a positive effect on your business.

Let’s explain.

Imagine you’re a small bakery with a maximum output of 100 croissants a day. A video you share about your croissants blows up. 1 million views in the bag. Great news!

The next day, there’s a queue out the door. The till is ringing and the money is flowing.

But the people at the back of the queue have been waiting an hour for a croissant. And now you’ve run out. You have other baked goods available, but that’s not what they came for.

So, you try and rush out another batch. But they’re not quite as good.

Although hypothetical, this story is all too common for those that go viral.

The increased attention generates an initial positive rush but, because of the rush, they are unable to maintain the same level of service and match expectations.

So, if you’re wanting to go viral, first determine whether you can actually handle it.

A queue of people in front of a white stone building.

Wrapping up

Given the pedestal going viral is put on, it’s surprising how very few people actually benefit from it.

As described, there is no set way to go viral and often the impact of going viral can be negative. So, we often advise clients to be wary of the risks associated with it and instead focus on making good quality content on a consistent basis whilst maintaining their usual high levels of service.

However, if you are actively striving to go viral, make sure you have a plan in place to ensure you can deal with the increased demand. In addition, ensure you have a comms plan in place in case the reason is a negative one.

Hopefully, this article has given you some food for thought.

Until next time, thanks for reading.


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