We often overestimate the likelihood of success, viral hits

The chances that any given message will actually go viral and reach a wide audience are much lower than one might initially anticipate. So says an article on the Financial Times website (Why Social Marketing Doesn’t Work – Tim Harford); “Economists, computer scientists and sociologists are now digging through these social networks for the answers to long-standing questions – and few answers are as eagerly awaited as the secret of producing a sure-fire hit,” Harford says.

A piece of content – video, blog post, or even a tweet on twitter – “goes viral” when it is passed from one person to his or her friends, who then pass it on to their friends, and so on. After a relatively short period of time, a huge number of people may have seen it – and that number is usually much higher than the original poster expected.

Unfortunately for professionals in the marketing arena, the doesn’t seem to be any method to producing a guaranteed hit. Everything seems to suggest that the process is entirely organic, not planned. But there is one universally agreed upon idea from those in the know: attempting to force a viral hit will almost certainly result in the complete opposite effect.

Janet Thaler (How To Make A Blog Post Go Viral With Social Media) cautions against being inauthentic, and that the goal should be to contribute, not spam: “Avoid thinking that because there is a crowd gathered it’s a good time to promote yourself.”

The most concrete advice we were able to find comes from Technobabble’s website (How to make a video go viral). Their two-pronged approach consists of making relevant and interesting content first, and then seeking ways to promote it in a way that encourages discussion while not pushing the product down the consumer’s throat. ” I am being repetitive,” says the author, “but don’t spam anyone and be clear who you are.”

About Brian Rants

Brian has 13 years experience helping B2B and B2C companies in nearly every industry increase engagement and ROI through strategic use of emerging digital technologies. Connect with Brian on: Google+ | Twitter

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