Going Viral – How Social Media Marketing Gets Spread

Going viral and being seen by MILLIONS of people is the goal of most small business owners. They want to make sure their social media gets picked up and “liked”, “thumbs upped” or generally approved of by the masses. That having been said, is it better to “go viral” or better to build a strong internet foundation that will last through the next google update? Additionally, is it important to be popular on just one social network, or should you spread your efforts over many, increasing your social media marketing reach?

Why humans want to be popular on one social media marketing platform

Going Viral - How Social Media Marketing Gets SpreadLet’s start with why we humans like to be popular on our favorite social media site. I have a young photographer friend, Emmet who takes AMAZING pictures. He is looking to have hundreds (or preferably thousands) of likes on his Instagram pictures.

He has built up a nice following (142 people who have indicated that they are following his work). So what is the problem with being popular on Instagram? Because he is in the 12-17 year old age demographic, he is focused primarily on mobile. You can reach him easily by texting, but not so much if you email him (I think he may check his email a couple of times a month). So Emmet’s world view is that becoming popular on a mobile social sharing site is the goal.

Now, if you are an oldster like me (in the 45-54 year old demographic) you are probably not so focused on your phone. You are probably on Facebook, check your emails and even like receiving direct mail (gasp). So what should Emmet do to increase his reach?

  • If he is going to keep concentrating on Instagram as his sole place to post pictures, he needs to drive traffic there! So he could post a link to his Instagram page on Facebook, include it in his outgoing signature line of his emails, send a postcard that tells you his link, etc.
  • If his goal is to get his pictures seen by a wider audience, he should consider posting them on Pinterest (a photo sharing site), putting them on Flickr.com with a creative commons license so people can use them and share them, and even post them on Facebook. If he increases his audience, he will increase his likes.
  • Finally, if he takes more pictures, there will be more to like and catch someone’s eye, leading them back to find out what else this guy has to offer. He is very focused on having only amazing pictures (which I applaud) but a couple of notes. You have to do something A LOT to get better at it (my husband who is a great photographer also has taken tens of thousands of pictures to get a body of work that he is starting to become proud of…his first ones were not great, they are AMAZING now). You also have to have a wide range of photos for people to choose to like. I like his picture of a lizard VERY much, someone else, maybe not so much!

See all of Emmet’s work on Instagram here…Emmet on Instagram

Why one thing will probably not go viral

So, our young friend is being picky about the quality of pictures he posts and wants to be recognized in a big way…sounds silly right? Well I have talked to HUNDREDS of small business owners who have the same idea. They want to make one high quality, amazing video that they can post up on YouTube, go viral and then rake in the big bucks. The problem with that is that most small biz owners want to make a commercial about their business, highlighting the features and benefits of working with them and showcasing the company owner.

How many of you zoom though every commercial on your television through the use of your DVR? I know I do. I will even start recording something, then watch a half hour something else so that I can skip through the first one without commercials when I am ready.

So if you are planning on having a commercial for your company go viral….hmmmm….not so much. So what is popular on YouTube? you can click the link to check today, this week, this month and all time

I had thought it would be soldiers coming home, or cute kitties, but come to find out it rock videos mostly. A funny man named Psy, Jennifer Lopez and Justin Beiber. NONE of these is a commercial for anything. In fact, I did a really cool post on superbowl commercials and how many views they got on YouTube….the one with Eminem about Detroit (one of my all time favorites) that aired a couple of years ago had had only about 20,000 views a week after airing and it was on the superbowl for goodness sakes.

So how do you get viewers for your videos? Make lots of them!

Deborah Ward (Emmet’s mom) is my friend and a Clearwater Realtor. She has over 20,000 views on her videos…want to know how many the highest one has? About 2,000 for one Emmet made about a software product years ago. The other 18,000 have come 1,000 or 1,500 at a time…some with 34, etc. The old ones have more views than the new ones (they have just been there longer). So what does that mean in the real world? Deborah has sold a fair number of houses with leads from her videos. She is Irish so Irish people like her, she talks funny so she is interesting to listen to, overall, she is friendly and makes LOTS of videos (near as I can tell she has about 108 right now!)

check out Deborah’s videos (the CrazyIrishRealtor)

Really going viral

So we did have a client who went viral, Green Cleaning Products LLC, and our friend Rae Ann. She had had a free offer for a full sized product of her green cleaning products up for almost two years when one day the Mommy bloggers found it. Within hours she went from hundreds of views a month to 10,000 views in a day, got over 4,000 submissions for a free product and added a bunch of people to her mailing list. A true viral success story, right?

Um, not so much. It cost her a pretty penny to mail out all of those items, and the rate of reorder is dismal (the Mommy bloggers just wanted free stuff, not green cleaning products). But her web hits probably went through the roof, right? Um, not so much again…while she did get some carry over on her hits, in general her traffic has since settled back down to pre-viral levels. What has happened is she grew her mailing list and she is able to market ongoing, but if you figured out the cost of mailing, etc and how much each lead cost, she probably had other (more cost effective) ways she could have grown her list.

The moral of the story

So, this is a real tortoise and the hair kind of story. You can “go viral”, “burn your list” or do other things that will give you a big splash in the pan OR you can be like the turtle who wins in the end, growing a large, sustainable internet city that can not be torn down with one site closing or google changing an algorithm.

If I had to choose between going viral with my social media marketing or having my big networks of responsive people who know me, like me, trust me and think I know what I am doing…I will pick raving fans EVERY time over a quick hit of people who are just out there!


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