I’ve grown to hate the term viral:
- I hate the fact that it’s overused.
- I hate the fact that it’s misused.
- I hate the fact that ‘viral’ appears as a line on media plans.
- I hate the fact that people now call them virals. With an (s) as if it’s a genre of film like westerns.
- I hate the fact that clients can be fobbed off with “if we add a ‘send to a friend’ link to it, that’ll make it viral”. Not all of them. But watch out for it, you can spot it.
A wise man (Rei Imamoto from AKQA in San Francisco if you must know) said in a meeting: “Viral is a consequence”. A truer 4 words have I rarely heard spoken.
Of course you can do things that might encourage people to talk about something. Or even send it on to someone else. Or blog about it. Or anything else that ‘spreads it’. But that’s just about making something that’s relevant. Something that I want to share because I love it. Something that ticks the right psychological boxes. It’s not about sex, or shock, or violence, or any other crass ‘too hot for tv’ tactic.
Make something entertaining (sure, it could be stupid, sexy, whatever…), something thought-provoking, something that makes someone’s day in a small way. Just make something good. Your audience are the ones who decide if it’s ‘viral or not’. They’re not dumb carriers of your disease. They’re willing participants in the distribution of your content.
Right, what got me started on this little rant? Oh, that’s it. I saw this: TIME.com: Viral Videos that Swept the Nation. And you know what. They’re right, these are viral videos. Videos that ordinary people have decided are great. I would talk about some of them. Others leave me cold.
But the interesting thing is that only 1 out of 8 of them has any (real) connection to a brand. (I’m not including Star Wars Kid as I don’t think Lucas would have signed that one off).
I’ve changed my mind. In the spirit of positivity I like viral. I like the notion of people sharing great things with each other. As long as we never forget that the audience are the ones who decide what is, or is not, viral.Â