Content Marketing 2016 Why Small Businesses Shouldn't Focus on Going Viral

Content Marketing 2016: Why Small Businesses Shouldn't Focus on Going Viral

More than one million views, 19 thousand shares, and two thousand comments – and still rising.

These are the stats for ‘viral video of the year’, featuring a 9-month-old Tabby-Bengal Mix cat. Alongside it are Game of Thrones content, more cat videos, and people chilling despite spotting a huge alligator.

Pretty impressive numbers, considering it’s not easy to go viral. Imagine if your business received this much attention online. Wouldn’t it be great to get a million or more audiences to consume your content? Just think about the amount of Web traffic going viral will generate for your business. Jackpot, right?

Not exactly. While content that has gone viral will, of course, remain in the online Hall of Fame forever, people’s reactions to it – no matter how positive – will NOT guarantee an impact on your bottom line. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what matters most?

If you’re a small business dreaming about hitting the next million hits, consider these points before wasting any efforts on this content marketing strategy.

1. Going Viral Isn't Always a Good Thing

You’re probably familiar with the saying that ‘all publicity is good publicity.’ Although in some respects it’s true (i.e. for celebrities), it’s a different story for brands and businesses.

Case in point: when DiGiorno pizza joined the #WhyIStayed hashtag campaign to increase awareness of domestic violence, consumers – including the brand – were unprepared for the backlash. Apparently, their lack of research resulted in people becoming agitated. Yes, they definitely went viral; albeit, for the wrong reasons.

This is a lesson for small businesses that are planning on news-jacking popular or trending subjects. Don’t just jump the gun. Do your homework and think about a) how the content aligns with your company values, and b) how your target market will perceive it.

2. Going Viral Isn't Dependable

What really makes content viral?

According to research by marketing professor Jonah Berger and associate professor of operations Katherine Milkman, viral content is popular because it elicits strong emotional reactions. Positive emotions like awe, wonder, and joy get shared more than negative feelings, like sadness. However, angry forms of content get more shares than gloomy or depressing content.

But aside from the emotional factor, there are other aspects of content that you need to consider. Things like timing, creativity, and the audience’s natural sharing tendencies also come into play. For example, the Web loves cats – but inserting it into your content is NOT a guarantee that your work will get thousands of hits.

Hyundai’s recent Super Bowl commercials, for instance, are both a hit and a miss. On one hand, people loved their ‘First Date’ ad, starring comedian Kevin Hart. It has more than 15 million views since it was released. On the other hand, though, the ad ‘Ryanville’ had mixed reactions, mainly due to their choice of actor (Ryan Reynolds, currently noted for his role as Deadpool).

3. Going Viral Isn't Always Sustainable

There is historical viral content (content that has stood the test of time and still continues to be profitable today) – and there is content that merely fizzled. Going into the viral marketing game without enough knowledge and experience is a waste of time, money, and energy. Most businesses think that getting a million Likes or Shares is the goal. On the contrary: a successful viral content marketing campaign should affect your bottom line – for the long haul.

What’s more, brands that can’t handle consumers’ reactions to their content won’t be able to sustain the hype and end up in square one again. Take for example “Nationwide is on your side” campaign. With the jingle taking off, the insurance company launched a new ad in 2013 featuring the singer behind the famous jingle. Although the ad was well-received, it did not take off.

Their 2015 ‘dead boy’ ad, on the other hand, gained plenty of attention – but also failed miserably. It might even have resulted in its CMO making an abrupt exit, just months after the negative reactions to the campaign.

Content Marketing for Small Businesses Done Right

Going viral is great – just don’t focus or try too hard on it.

If you’re investing in content marketing this 2016, take note of these three core points. Even if you don’t receive one million hits, you will hit the jackpot with your target customers in terms of loyalty. Here’s how:

  • Develop a strong content marketing plan. From the onset, align your content with your business goals. Ask yourself: where do I want all this to go? Is this to spread brand awareness, increase sales, or gain new leads? The clearer you are on what you want to achieve, the higher the chances that you’ll get a satisfactory outcome.
  • Align your content with your target market. What do your customers want to see? What types of content have they responded to well in the past? Can you make something similar? What are the trends today and how is your target market reacting to it?
  • Build trust over time. In a 2015 sustainability report by Nielsen Group, it was found that 62 percent of consumers are influenced by brand trust when making purchases. So developing a positive reputation is paramount. If you want to enter new markets, gain customer loyalty and remain competitive, make sure your image as a company is built on trust.

Don’t try too hard if you want your content to go viral. If all the conditions are right (timing, concept, audience reception, etc.), it will. So don’t worry! Focus instead on creating practical and highly valuable content that your specific market can relate to. Something that positively represents your brand and what you believe in.


al gomezSEO consultant Al Gomez is the man behind SEOExpertPage.com and Dlinkers, a company dedicated to complete digital marketing services. With more than nine years of experience, he enjoys supporting smart entrepreneurs like himself to achieve online success.