Your Content isn’t Going Viral Because it Sucks

by · January 21, 201479 comments

It’s the million dollar question every marketer wants to know. How do I get my content to go viral? Who Is Hosting This put out a helpful infographic that helps marketers check their content against their defined formula for success. The infographic does a good job of providing some basic guidelines, however it sparked a whole different line of thought in my brain.

Your Content Sucks

Instead of measuring the success of your content based upon its virality, start measuring content based on the quality of what you put out. It’s like a broken record we’ve been hearing scratching in our ears for too long, but it is so true. The majority of content that is put out from brands is so self-serving and boring that there is absolutely no reason anyone would want to share it. Try to start with making your content about serving the needs, wants, and desires of your audience instead of about the brand and you’ll do much better than you are today. It may not go viral, but you’ll be one step closer. Seriously, if you think that boring video talking about all of your products is going viral it’s time for an intervention. Get creative. Your customers don’t care about your products.

You Can’t Design Content to Go Viral, But You Can Design it to Be Great

If you think that following any formula for virality is going to work, you are setting yourself up for failure. This infographic gives you a lot of tips on how to make content much better, but it isn’t going to be a guarantee of virality. Think of going viral as a free upgrade to first class, not the destination. Design your content to be compelling first. It is near impossible to predict which chords you will strike until they’ve actually been struck. You can try, but realize that a very minute percentage of content ever goes viral. There is a lot of amazing content out there that never achieves virality, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t work. On the flipside there is a lot of content that goes viral that is a complete surprise to those who created it. Recognize that sometimes we don’t know if something is going to work until we are looking at it through the rear-view mirror.

Stop Blowing Smoke and Start With Holy Smokes

I believe one of the reasons there is so much sub-par content out there is because we don’t start with the intended emotion in mind. At SME Digital, we use the Holy Smokes test that Jason Falls created as a starting point for any content that is developed. Before the piece is written, we must define the Holy Smokes factor, which is filling in the blank in the statement “Holy Smokes! That’s _____!” We think about what we want the audience to say after they read or see the content and then we create the content to elicit that emotion. At the end, we check and see if it was able to deliver. If it wasn’t we fix it. Perhaps this will help you start to create your content with the emotional response in mind.

Here are some examples of Holy Smokes factors we’ve used:

  • Holy Smokes! That’s Hilarious!
  • Holy Smokes! That’s Incredibly Useful!
  • Holy Smokes! That’s Amazing!
  • Holy Smokes! That’s Shocking!
  • Holy Smokes! That’s Mind Blowing!
  • Holy Smokes! That’s Smart!
  • Holy Smokes! That’s Exactly What I Needed!

At the end of the day if you create a great piece of content that your audience responds to, is it a win? I say yes. If it goes viral that’s even better.

Take a look at the infographic to see the tips. Do you agree? Disagree? How important is virality in the grand scheme of content? How do you make sure your content is stellar? Leave a comment and join the discussion. 

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About Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly is the CEO of Social Media Explorer|SME Digital. She is also the author of How to Measure Social Media. Her team helps companies figure out where social media fits and then helps execute the recommended strategy across the “right” mix of social media channels. Do you want to rock the awesome with your digital marketing strategy? Contact Nichole

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