It was clear from the title of the book that Dan Zarrella is not a fan of the term ‘viral marketing’ but the further I got into “Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness”, I was less convinced. I don’t think it’s the term itself but what is implied by it.
For example, it’s a joke amongst marketers (right?) to be in a room with senior executives and hear one of them say ‘why don’t we make something go viral?’ What does that mean anyways?
As a whole, we know it means that the content is spreadable; people want to pass it along because they either
a) Think people will laugh at it and they will be heralded as the person that found that wicked funny photo or video – or-
b) Think it makes them look smart and validates a point they are – or were – trying to make.
Regardless of the reason, ideas that go ‘viral’ are contagious. But, I love that Dan points out in this book that it’s not necessarily the content itself but the size of the initial audience it reaches. Consider that for a moment: it’s not the content, it’s the size of the initial audience you send it to.
Got the funniest video of all time? Send it to one person and it’s probably not going to spread.
Got the best infographic? It’s never going to catch on by sending it to one person.
Got the latest research report with all the right answers? Not going to matter if you don’t have the reach.
Yes, there are exceptions like the infamous tweeter that launched the trend regarding Nelson Mandela’s death. And you may get lucky by sending that infographic or video to just the right person to launch a viral pandemic.
But ….you must have REACH!
All those executives sitting around large conference room tables urging you, as a marketer, to create something that is going to go ‘viral’ need to keep that in mind. Yet, I find it’s those same executives that are so convinced viral content will save their company and give them the exposure they crave and need that are telling you to stop spending so much time blogging or participating in social channels.
Reach is the key ingredient to spreading ideas. But it’s certainly not the only one. And over the next couple weeks, I am going to talk about some other ideas from this book like how to compete for attention once you have the audience.
And why did we start calling great ideas that great ‘viral’ and ‘contagious’ anyways? Did anyone ever think these are not necessarily the best adjectives to describe something we should be consuming?