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Monday, January 3, 2011

Does Going Viral ‘Work’?

I want to consider the term ‘going viral’ some more. Many people use the term. The idea of going viral  has become a goal for many marketers. What does going viral entail?

I define viral material as any that accrues great interest, receives linkage and commentary from many sources, and otherwise enjoys a buzz. The Internet, that vast communication network, lies central to the material’s viral reach. Internet = Land of Constant Buzz.

I further define ‘going viral’ as a natural process, though I guess I should add ‘sort of’. To my mind, going viral differs from marketing. The difference between the two terms brings up an essential point.

How marketing and going viral differ resembles how a canal and a river differ. Canals are human-directed waterways. Rivers proceed more naturally, according to gravity and landscape. Keep that difference in mind.

Marketing presses the product at consumers whereas ‘going viral’ is a fortuitous popularity. One can influence that popularity but in essence, you have allowed the interest to develop on its own. Efforts to enhance that interest enter the territory of hype.

Since my metaphors proceed so swimmingly, I will posit a further damp comparison. Imagine a river in steady transport as your marketing endeavor. Now imagine the abundance of spring snow melt and rain overwhelming the banks of the river. Picture that untrained expansion as a viral enthusiasm.

You need to communicate straightforwardly the advantages of your product or service. In that effort, you show your respect for your customers. Your marketing should center on bringing those advantages to the consumer in an intelligent, creative, and honest way. Do not pretend that your product is more or other than what it is. If your product lacks something vital, fix it rather than hype it.

Endeavoring towards viral interest is a commitment to the momentary. Interest will wane, the flood will recede. You cannot depend on the viral. You should think in longer terms.

Hype exaggerates. When marketers attempt to produce viral effects, they seek to produce an exaggerated version of your product. That version will always, always reach fail state. And the competition in Land of Constant Buzz is ferocious because attention there is slim.

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