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4 Things to Consider Before Your Content Goes Viral

Viral Content Marketing

Viral video. Viral mistake. Viral opportunity?

When we think of the word viral, we don’t always think of positive things. We’ve all likely seen a video, for example, that spread across the digital arena like an Arizona wildfire. Interested in what’s so important, you try to click as well only to find the site is down.

But viral content can be a great thing, too. If you could develop a campaign and see it go viral in a good way, wouldn’t you jump on board the viral train?

So, viral presents a list of challenges and opportunities. If you are considering how to tap into the viral vibe, check out these 4 things to consider before your content goes viral:

1. Who’s seeing your content?

You’ve gone to all the trouble to create compelling, relevant content and now, for whatever reason, your message has gone viral. So much for your target market and ideal audience, you’ve just been launched into the Internet stratosphere.

Can too many eyes be a bad thing? To make the most of those visitors, provide links to relevant pages on your website that ground your original message.

If your content goes viral, don't throw up your hands and run away, find a way to harness this new audience (chances are some of the prospects you really want but haven’t gotten yet are running with this crowd).

2. Can there be too much of a good thing?

Who knew your content would create a storm of visitors to your website? Now they are swarming all over your brand. Can your website handle the traffic?

Just in case your best-case opportunity becomes your worst-case scenario, plan ahead and understand how your website can handle more visits than you could ever imagine.

Don't just think in terms of campaign response; think in terms of individual press release response. Plan how you will harness the tsunami of interest that could capsize (or buoy) your brand.

3. Can your reputation stand the attention?

Remember your well-meaning content? If for some reason people have misconstrued or parodied your message, how do you turn lemons into lemonade?

Be prepared to take unwanted attention and meet it head on with a sense of humor. The old PR saying, “negative attention is better than no attention” can come mightily into play. Try these tips:


  • Use the viral response as a foundation for a new online marketing campaign.


  • Don’t get backed into a corner defending your brand, re-define yourself by telling people what you’re not (think 7-Up’s Uncola campaign).


  • Don’t react too quickly. Give your team time to find the silver lining in the content’s new direction.


    4. How will you handle the unexpected?

    We are reminded daily of how unpredictable the digital marketplace can be. A leaked video or telephone conversation can blow up into a PR disaster (or opportunity) overnight. One thing is for sure; no one can control viral content.

    You may want to incorporate viral elements into your PR strategy but viral never has a set direction, so don’t depend on guarantees.

    If you are interested in testing the viral waters, try these ideas:


  • Create a press release built on lists of items/tips. Readers everywhere are attracted to the “100 best or 100 worst” type content.


  • Release interactive video to increase viewer engagement such as questions viewers can answer.


  • Try using specialized quizzes to pique readers’ interest and lengthen the time they spend reading your content.

    Viral content can benefit your brand but it comes packaged with potential risks. As Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said at the 2011 G8 Summit, “You can't isolate some things you like about the Internet and control other things that you don't."

    To successfully navigate viral waters, familiarize yourself with examples of other viral outcomes and test yourself as to how you would have handled them. You might find your preparation reduces the severity of a viral outbreak in your future. Do you have any advice on how to handle viral content? Let us know in a comment!

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