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Three Pitfalls When Trying Too Hard To 'Go Viral' One of the first things we learn as marketers is to 'choose the target audience wisely'.

By Alex Ionides

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Most marketers dream of their campaign going viral. It's that 15 minutes of fame. But in truth, it's not the best content marketing strategy.

Trying too hard to go viral can dilute your target audience and reduce the quality of your content. Maybe worst of all, it can make you forget what your overall aim was. Let's look at three reasons why having a viral mentality may not be the best long-term content marketing strategy.

1. Viral audience dilution

18-24 year olds report fewer positive emotions when viewing content online than older age groups.

Why is this data from the Harvard Business Review so important? Because it shows that different demographics may well react differently to your campaigns. One of the first things we learn as marketers is to "choose the target audience wisely'. Target audience analysis is an essential component of a content marketing strategy because it gives you an informed view of who your audiences are, who they are not, and who they could be.

This could all go out the window by trying too hard to go viral. Marketers can over stretch, especially when their viral content isn't picked up straight away. Panic sets in and the campaign is pushed further afield. But there's no point sending campaigns out en masse when 99% of the recipients simply aren't interested.

Switch to a content marketing mentality: Define who your target market is before even getting started on creating the content. Once you know who you're speaking to, it will be much easier to come up with innovative and engaging pieces of content. Maximize the reach of your content by improving your email lists, boosting, and using media syndication. Then, if you're lucky, part of your content may go viral among your target market.

2. Viral selfishness

Reviews from websites (26%) and general web searches (21%) are the most cited sources for information that leads to a purchase.

This comes from the 2014 Consumer Problem Survey Report, published by the Georgetown Institute for Consumer Research (GICR) and KPMG. What I like about this is that unlike most surveys it doesn't concentrate on behavior. Instead, it explores what problems over 11,000 consumers have and how they go about solving them by making a purchase decision. Because this is what we're trying solve – problems. Endlessly trying to go viral can mean we forget this.

And when we forget it, our marketing campaigns stop being about helping clients or consumers solve their problems, and start being only about brand recognition. As we'll see, long-term this can actually create big problems for brand reputation.

Switch to a content marketing mentality: Make sure your content is customer-centric and gives them something valuable. This is how customers will really remember and appreciate your content in the long run. Let's say for a minute that you're a builders' merchant. You know your clients are trades people and DIY fanatics. And you know a big problem is going to be deciding on the best tool for the job. What type of concrete do I need? What's the sand to water to cement ratio for particular jobs? And so on. Okay, so maybe you're thinking how on earth will that ever go viral? Maybe it won't. But if it's a fun tool that makes DIY calculations easy, then it may do very well among your target audience.

3. Viral reputation loss

69% of companies disagreed when asked if viral marketing helped increase their brand reputation.

In fact, it probably decreases it. This data comes from a questionnaire sent to 75 South African companies that explored their use of viral marketing. The results were published in the International Business & Economics Research Journal in 2014.

Marketers work hard to create strong brand identity and values. But constantly chasing after quantity over quality can harm this. A viral mentality means chasing clicks, likes and shares. Obsession with these can lead to endless catchy headlines in an attempt to stand out. Content quickly becomes clickbait. The upshot is that while viral content can help your click-throughs go through the roof, it rarely converts people into brand fans.

Switch to a content marketing mentality: Part of the reason it's difficult to go viral is that it's hard to predict what will be successful. So focus on producing high-quality content that will portray the right image and reputation for your brand. Release it often.

This strategy works. Let's take just one simple example – a blog. SMEs with blogs see 126% more lead growth, with 61% of online customers making a purchase after reading a blog. Now imagine what's possible if your content output includes not just blogs, but infographics, videos, eBooks, and much more.

Focus on your audience. This is the key take away. Because there are no downsides to trying too hard to target your audience. And if you do, you never know, maybe your content will go viral anyway.

Related: Spreading The News: The Recipe For A Viral Marketing Campaign

Alex Ionides

Managing Director, Silx

Alex Ionides is Managing Director of Silx, a Dubai-based digital marketing agency. Previously, Alex was General Manager of the Dubai office of global PR company Hill+Knowlton Strategies, and Managing Director of Munich-based marketing agency Threeview. He grew up in Vancouver, Canada, receiving a Bachelor of Applied Science in Mass Communication from Simon Fraser University. In addition to his career in marketing, Alex worked for many years as a journalist in the Middle East. He has lived and worked in the US, Germany, Hong Kong, Egypt, and now Dubai.

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