H5N1 "bird flu" virus

With the arrival of YouTube came the advent of “viral” videos — clips that spread from viewer to viewer at an alarming rate.  Sometimes they’re funny or satirical, and sometimes they appeal to our deeper emotions and our need to connect on a personal level.  But they always involve something that other people WANT to talk about, which makes them easy to pass along, over and over.

Ever since “viral” entered the marketing lexicon, experts have been clamoring to teach businesses how they can create “viral” campaigns that will turn their products into beloved household names.  “Give us a product,” they essentially claim, “and we can craft a campaign that people can’t HELP but talk about.”

Which, of course, is a lie.

Any successful “viral” video catches lightning in a bottle.  It succeeds because it’s new, different, unusual or emotionally charged.  It rarely has anything to do with a product or service, and if it does, that product or service is often ancillary to the actual buzzworthy content of the video.  (For example, when Doritos solicits armchair videographers to create their own Super Bowl commercials, everyone who discusses the resultant ads talks about the creativity of the videos or the marketing campaign itself… but not the chips.)

Buzz happens because a product or service is worth talking about in the first place.  If you have to invest conspicuous amounts of money into an ad campaign intended to generate “viral” buzz about your company, you may want to ask yourself why your customers aren’t already buzzing about your products and services in the first place.

Social media isn’t about inventing buzz from scratch.  It’s about empowering your customers to speak more clearly and practically about the things they like (and don’t like) about your company.  Because one video in a million will become “viral,” but nothing spreads faster than the truth.

Photo by iba.


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