What does it take to go viral?

Last week, Harry and I attended The Business Show 2016, at London’s Olympia Exhibition Centre. Inside, red, green, blue and purple carpets lead the way into various ‘zones’ and, much like Dorothy and Toto along the yellow-brick road, we eagerly followed the blue path home to the digital zone. We were hoping to learn a trick or two from big in-industry speakers like Google UK’s Raja Saggi, B2B marketing’s equivalent of the Wizard of Oz.

The hot topic on everyone’s lips seemed to be social media. Are you using it? Are you using the right one? How do you use it? How you should use it! Are you tracking it? Are you hacking it? Want to know how to go viral like I did?

Now, don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of excellent speakers at the show and any SME or startup attending will have had a lot of useful information to take away. Sally Lawson (another marketing Wizard) gave the robots in the crowd their much needed heart as she encouraged marketers to appeal to their audience’s emotional side, through content that speaks to the heart (maybe she read my blog from last week?) and advised people to give things away for free in order to make money. Google’s Saggi gave scarecrows their much needed brain by outlining steps that all businesses can take to improve their online marketing (if you missed out here, we’re running a similar free seminar this week if you’re interested?) Meanwhile various masterclasses held over the two days gave the lions in the audience the much needed confidence to go out and grow their businesses.

But Wizard of Oz metaphors aside, one talk in particular (and I won’t name names here) got me thinking, is it really all so simple? This particular speaker seemed to suggest that the question of how to go viral simply came down to this: share a great piece of content on twitter at the right time and it will reach hundreds of thousands of followers who will all come flooding over to your site. It sounds pretty great, especially as the speaker in question has tens of thousands of followers on the social media platform. But what if you don’t have hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, how to go viral then? And even when you have the following, how to convert them into traffic and sales? One small business owner we spoke to had thousands of followers on Instagram but not a single sale as a result…

how to go viral graphic

So what does it really take to go viral?


As I left the show, I was left thinking. Should those businesses on social media really be asking how to go viral? Or should they be asking, how do I build a following? How can I engage with my target market? How can I use social media to get to know them? How do I use this information to create a strong, thought-out marketing campaign that won’t just reach them on a social level (i.e. on twitter and Facebook) but on an emotional level too? It’s easy to get caught up in numbers, statistics and impressions but while the world may have gone digital, we are still marketing to real people in the real world. One great piece of advice from Sally Lawson was that marketing has to be all about them (the consumer). You shouldn’t be marketing yourself but instead marketing to them, for them. One of the best uses of social media today, in my humble opinion, isn’t just marketing yourself, but to discover, to learn and to engage.

Do you need a helping hand with your social media marketing campaign? Or your wider digital marketing campaign for that matter? Get in touch to find out more about the services we offer.

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