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Why It's Smart to Focus on Strategic Growth Instead of Going Viral Sure, seeing your stories and videos go viral is exciting, but it's not a long-term solution.

By FlexTal Edited by Jason Fell

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Social media is more than going viral.

The modern-day term "viral" applies to content that is shared outside its target audience. You've likely seen viral content make its way through morning news, social media and, if the content goes far enough, in emails from your grandparents.

Yes, seeing viral stories, brands, and videos is exciting—especially for those involved that get to bask in their 15 minutes—but going viral is not a long-term solution. It also takes a lot of work for brands to analyze the piece of content and put careful strategy behind it.

It's not usually by chance that a brand goes viral. Behind the scenes, there are meticulous measures in place to make sure the content is targeting the right audience and then devoting time to deeply understand that audience. Going viral takes effort, and content is often planned months in advance.

A viral post or story is a great way to get a lot of eyes on you at once, but what happens after?

'Can you make this go viral?'

The answer is no. Social media strategists cannot "make" a piece of content go viral. Not without careful planning, quality content creation, and a long-term strategy.

Asking "can you make this go viral" is a good way to make a social media strategist cringe. They know growing engagement and followers longterm is much more complicated than getting one piece of content to go viral.

While there are ways for brands to strategically go viral, people are more likely to go viral than companies. It's the "social" in "social media." People come to these platforms for human connection and enjoy viewing content that does not have a motive to sell a product or attract customers or clients. The internet chooses what goes viral, and the internet can tell between a piece of content that's authentic versus manufactured.

Going viral also means a brand has to take a risk in order to stand out. Think about recent brands that have gone viral. Wendy's is famous for its Twitter presence because the fast-food chain took an unorthodox approach to content marketing: being mean. And Twitter users loved it.

If going viral is important to a brand, strategy must be specific and granular.

Long-term growth > going viral

One of the biggest challenges for people who have had viral success is creating that next best piece of content. It adds unsurmountable pressure on a person or marketing team to conquer the "sophomore slump." Knowing this, a major downside of going viral is that people drop off—fast. They are looking for the next best thing from the account, and if the user isn't taking content to the next level, people will become disinterested and start to engage less or unfollow.

To avoid a big drop, structure your social media strategy and goals around consistent engagement over going viral. Luckily, long-term success and viral success have a few things in common: good content. The difference is that with a strategy, there is less pressure to outperform. Instead, you get to improve and build on your content skills over time, creating natural growth instead of putting all your eggs in one little content basket.

With long-term growth, consistent engagement between a user and a brand helps build relationships and trust over time. It's difficult to tend to every comment on a viral post. With a long-term content strategy, you can easily tend to engagements, making individual users feel seen. This give/receive in the form of likes and comments feels personal. These interactions build loyal followers, who are likely to tell their friends about their positive social media experience with your brand. Plus, the more loyal followers interacting with your posts, you increase the chances of going viral.

The power of having a dedicated social strategist.

Hiring an individual or even a team of social media experts can help streamline your strategy and assure your brand is focused on strong branding and engaging content that leads to the trust and connection that keeps users from hitting the "unfollow" button. Experts know branded social media is no longer about product promotion and sales, it's about creating content that connects. Strategists help create a content strategy that is people-focused, which will draw more followers and engagements. It's easy to focus on products and services, but modern-day marketing is incredibly nuanced and personal.

An expert can also know how to translate social media analytics into actionable changes that will encourage growth. They will look for trends in posts that perform well, compared to lower-performing posts. By connecting the dots between each social platform's analytics and the content shared, social media strategists tweak what's shared to match user behavior and sentiment. The more these analytics are studied, the better your brand will understand your audience and how to curate and create content for them.

When looking for a strategist, go with someone who will push back. Yes, it's difficult to get pushback when you have your own brand vision, but trust the strategist. You're in their world, and they have the skills to get your brand where you want it to be. It's also good practice to look for specific expertise. Every social media strategist has something different to offer. Some are brilliant with creative content, while others are analytics superstars or detailed advertisers. You may have to compile a small team of nice experts to get desired results in an efficient manner.

No matter what, your strategist will be working with you on the same goal: growth. Keep that in mind as they implement new practices and make content suggestions. They want the best for your brand as much as you do.


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