Is virality the best social media goal?

Virality is the crown jewel atop the tiara of social media metrics. Having a tweet go viral could expose your brand to hundreds of thousands of people in one fell swoop. Why wouldn’t we all strive toward virality? 

While going viral can be awesome for your social media presence, I stand firm in my belief that virality shouldn’t be your goal. Steady growth and genuine engagement with target audiences is much more rewarding in the long run than one-time viral success. 

I don’t expect this simple introduction to convince you. Here are three reasons why virality should not be your leading social media goal.

You may not be prepared for your content to go viral

Before you launch a campaign designed to garner reach, consider whether your business is prepared for an influx of consumers. Do you have enough product available to handle a one-time order spree? Is your site robust enough to withstand an influx of visitors? Do you have customer service representatives who can handle a deluge of calls, emails or website chats? If you answered no to any of these questions, shooting for a massively popular social media post might actually work against you. It’s better to have a slow ramp-up of traffic that results in positive consumer experiences than to have one massive hit that leaves some customers disgruntled. 

Virality doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll meet other objectives

I recently watched viral TikTok from a small business owner. She talked about how excited she was when a previous post about her swimwear line went viral. The post received millions of views and several hundred thousand likes. How many sales did she make in the 24 hours after the post went viral? Two. I’m not saying this isolated incident is the rule, but it also isn’t the exception. 

A great social media post that goes viral doesn’t always lead to account follows, site visits or sales – and here’s why. When a post goes viral, your reach extends well beyond your target audience. You’re earning thousands of views, but only a handful of those people are ripe to engage with your company in a way that supports business. Here’s an example. Say you’re a diaper company and you post an adorable baby video that goes viral. You reach millions of people, but of those millions, not all of them will be caregivers of diaper-wearing children. And those that are might already be loyal to a competitor’s brand. 

Trying to go viral might actually keep you from going viral

How many times has your well-meaning relative told you that you’ll find “the one” when you stop looking? Sometimes, in an attempt to go viral, creators forsake quality content for shock factor or “wow.” But social media consumers are more attuned to our marketing tactics than we realize, and clickbait content can be easily passed over for stronger, more authentic messages. While trying to go viral works for some accounts with large followings – like Buzzfeed, the Onion or Vice – it could inhibit performance for smaller brands. Instead of trying to go viral, try to create awesome content that represents your brand. If you’re targeting the right consumers, they’ll hopefully find it interesting, too.