Perspectives

So, you want your content to go viral?

Article by Nic Helme | PS Creative Director
Artwork by Karla Kelder  | PS Digital Designer

People have thrown around the phrase, "content is the new king" many times in recent years. While on the one hand that is seemingly true, there is a hard truth that is often overlooked when creating and sharing content.

Not all content is created equal, or at least not given the same chance at a successful life. 

All brands want their content to be seen, and theoretically, if billions of people are online then it should be possible. However, the truth of the matter is that algorithms are running the show. Unless someone is specifically searching for you, they're unlikely to see a single piece of your content, let alone your page. And even then it’s not guaranteed. 

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But why though?

Because while content (as broad and bold as that term is in this context) is the stuff of the internet, the fuel that keeps the monster going, it is cash that brings that content to light. It is paid-for media placements and big-budget productions that put content on the screens of users, consumers, customers  across the planet. That is, unfortunately, the way the world works – for brands trying to be digitally competitive anyway.  

What it takes to go viral:

Let’s be honest, nobody knows what it takes for something to go viral, or at least why one piece of random content will explode across the world while countless others wither and die in the world wide wastelands – and more importantly, nobody knows how to replicate it or recreate it effectively. 

Especially if the content comes with a product attached, is powered by a brand or even has the whiff of branded content. 

Have a quick look at these 21 best viral moments of 2021 – go ahead, we’ll wait. Notice anything? None of those globally-recognised moments had anything to do with a brand or a product. If you can think of any single cyber moment that went viral and involved, included or revolved around a brand, the chances are it was a controversy or a scandal. 

So, you want your content to go viral? Forget about it, you don’t want that kind of heat. But you want and need content, so if you can’t hope for virality, then what are we aiming for?

Quality beats quantity every single time. 

As old and tired as that concept may seem, it’s as true now as the very first time someone whispered it in a boardroom. Consider for a moment that while there are no official figures, it is estimated that an average person is met with between 6 000 and 10 000 ads every single day – if (and that’s a big if) they see yours, don’t you want it to be a quality piece of content rather than one that blurs into the next?

But what about those algorithms, you say? Well, those algorithms serve users content they have already shown an interest in, so if yours does somehow pop up in their timeline, you’d best hope your content is better than anything else they’ve just seen and will see again in mere seconds.  

A quality piece of content takes time and thinking to create. Passion and dedication to the cause makes all the difference and is visible when viewed by the right audience. Because with all of that content we’re exposed to, we’ve all become content connoisseurs and can spot a fake a mile away – if you can, surely so can your target audience?

Putting your best foot forward may be a slower process but will invariably serve the brand better in the long run because the only thing anyone will see will be well thought out, considered, relatable and true to your brand – quality. Constant posting of content is not indicative of quality because there simply isn’t the time to create it – we need to learn from the last piece that was put out, consider the results, and adjust our next piece accordingly because we also can’t keep putting out the same contentover and over again – which is ultimately what happens when one goes with a quantity-first approach to content. Where does all that wasted, stale content even go? 

So, we can’t go viral by choice and we need to spend time (and therefore money) to create the best quality content possible, and then we’ll get the digital masses storming our pages and elevating our brand to the top? 

Well, no, unfortunately, there are other forces at play…

Someone’s gotta get paid.  

Nobody wants to pay to havetheir content seen, especially when they’ve just paid to get it made. The problem is that some brands don’t mind paying – and boy do they pay. 

Big and small brands alike pay massive amounts of money to have their content served to the best audience, at the best time and in the best way, and those platforms that preach about their algorithms being user-centric are only talking about one part of the story, the organic part. 

Organic content: anyone can make it and we all see it daily in the form of friends’ baby pictures and trips to Bali, but that’s just about the extent of the organic content we are served these days. Effectively every other piece of content we are served is paid for by someone. Remember those 6 000 to 10 000 pieces of content? Those were ads and by definition, paid for. 

The cold hard fact is that the game is rigged and it takes cold hard cash to be noticed in this pay-to-play arena. 

But it’s not all doom and gloom and dollar signs. 

We all want something different.  

Just like you, your customers – existing and potential – are looking for something different, something interesting, something worth their time in the sea of holiday pics and ads about shoes they already bought last week. 

That’s what this is all about, creating quality content that breaks through the clutter and is highly targeted to find its way into the path of exactly the right users. Users with eyes hungry for your content and consumers who’ll feel rewarded for engaging with it. 

We don’t check our phones over 100 times a day and email 30 times an hour just to see another message about load-shedding or reply to a thread about carpooling to the office. No, we are looking for something to grab our attention, something different or unique, we are all looking for good quality content that will make us think differently, even if only for a moment. 

Conclusion:

Content may not be the one true king while cash is still ruling things from the top, and putting out reams of organic content may be like trying to get a hot air balloon off the ground with nothing but your breath, but there is hope. 

And it doesn’t need to cost you an arm and a leg – mostly just some time, the right strategic partner and a little grey matter. 

You’ve come this far, let’s take your customers on a considered brand adventure they’ll remember 5 minutes from now. 

Ready for a new brand adventure? Let’s chat: hello@platinumseed.com