It’s the dream of every social media marketer. Create a video ad that strikes a nerve, then watch it spread across the Internet. Followers share it with their friends. Friends share it with their relatives. Influencers pick up on it and share it with their followers. In no time at all, a piece of marketing that would normally be seen by a few thousand people is seen by millions around the world.
Those millions don’t just see the video. They also see the company’s name, its logo, its offer, and its marketing message. The company lands the kind of exposure that would have cost millions had it tried to buy that reach through advertising. It’s like winning the lottery with a single ticket.
But while viral marketing can bring benefits, even a viral hit doesn’t beat a solid social marketing strategy.
First, virality is unpredictable. Although marketing companies might sell the promise of a viral hit, no one really knows what makes one piece of content go viral while another is ignored. Hollywood still churns out more duds than classics and it’s been making movies for a century. If studios can’t figure out the hit formula, businesses can’t be expected to do any better, even dedicated marketing firms.
But even if you could guarantee an ad will go viral and spread around the world, it still wouldn’t beat a social media marketing strategy because virality is also untargeted. You don’t know who’s going to see a viral ad. Most of the people who watch it will be interested in the content but they might never have been interested in the product. You might have giant viewing figures and enormous general awareness, but you could still only have reached a small part of your potential market.
At a time when advertising platforms let you target ads by demographic as tight as “single people aged 21 to 40 living within thirty miles of Duluth who like strawberry ice cream,” viral advertising’s shotgun approach can look very old fashioned. Billboard ads can be seen by thousands of people too, but they rarely result in direct, trackable sales.
Because you don’t know who saw that ad, you can’t turn to that audience again to follow up. Social media marketing’s big advantage might be its fine targeting, but today’s advertising also allows for re-targeting. No business can expect to make a large number of sales on their first contact with a lead. They need to repeat that contact and continue pushing their message. They need to build a relationship with leads that create trust.
Once a lead trusts a brand, they’ll come to like the brand. And once they like the brand, they start to buy from the brand.
From there, as long as the product has done its job, they also tell their friends about the brand, starting a new kind of virality but one powered by personal recommendation rather than funny cats
Social media marketing enables continued contact. It lets you reach an audience with a targeted ad. It then lets you continue the conversation with that audience, turning curiosity into interest and interest into intent.
Viral hits burn bright, but they burn fast and leave few traces behind.
Target your content by demographic and interest on social media. Build a following. Plan your content so that you maintain the curiosity of that first contact. Track the results of your content so that you know what interests your followers. Build trust and loyalty. Guide your followers through a funnel that leads to an attractive offer.
And don’t feel envious when a rival goes viral. They might have a hit video but you’re making a long-term impact on your market.
About Joel Comm
As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products, and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.
Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.
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