Accelerated Marketing Is the Smart Way to Think About ‘Going Viral’

Seeing your content spread like wildfire is an incredible marketing opportunity. But it can’t necessarily be planned. Or can it?

Don’t deny it: Seeing your organization’s content “go viral” is a little bit of a dream. Why wouldn’t it be? It would mean your brand or mission is striking a chord with your target audience and beyond and having a moment. And it could also mean a spike not only in your organization’s engagement, but sales and brand awareness. However, it may be time for your organization to stop thinking about “going viral” and start engaging with accelerated marketing.

In Unscientific and Scientific Terms…

Generally speaking, viral content finds its way in front of numerous people over a short period of time. The exact size of the audience and length of time is up for debate, and has changed with internet culture and usage. It could mean your content generates 100,000 to 5 million views over a few hours or a few days. But there is no hard definition (or guarantees!). Still, in unscientific terms, it’s got to be fast and a lot.

Simply put, in the digital world, “to go viral means” to find popularity. However, that popularity can be fleeting. In a way, the short shelf-life of viral videos and memes is part of what makes them hot content. Hitting the right message at the right time for the right audience—it’s like lightning. It’s incredible, brilliant, and awe-inspiring. And then it’s gone. When will it strike next? The sense of wonder and surprise is part of what makes viral moments exciting.

So, given the nature of viral content, is there even a point in trying to go viral? Probably not. And a failure to “go viral” is not equal to bad marketing. Additionally, in the past year, the concept of “going viral” has changed dramatically. A real-world pandemic has reminded marketers of the real-world definition of “viral.” Fortunately, there is a marketing tool that takes the speed of “going viral” and combines it with real strategy. That’s viral marketing. Or, at least, it was.

Let’s call it accelerated marketing today.

Explaining Accelerated Marketing

Aside from generating sales and leads, raising brand awareness may be one of your organization’s biggest goals. You want as many people in your target demographic seeing your content, recognizing your calling card, and thinking about your organization. Below the surface, marketing and communications strategies are pulling the strings and helping you do just that.

But what about really big recognition? Not simply being recognized by your core audience, but a kind of internet superstardom. Or, not only being recognized for your products and services, but for your voice. People follow you simply because your content is savvy and totally in touch with current trends. Your content on social media resonates and gets promoted like crazy!

Accelerated marketing happens when your audience and the general pop culture-consuming public are excited to take part. By definition, accelerated marketing is when consumers are enthralled enough to share information about an organization online.

To get to the heart of accelerated marketing, think about memes and funny tweets from brands like Wendy’s. The brand’s social media channels share a specific voice and often engage with pop culture moments—from Baby Yoda memes to basketball bracket picks—and isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself or others.

Ready to Jump Into Accelerated Marketing?

Accelerated marketing involves more strategy than “going viral.” How do you jump into accelerated marketing? Figuring out how your organization can play with accelerated marketing can be a little complex. It’s the kind of content that comes out of nowhere, while also keeping the brand hyper-present. However, it’s also never forced. Instead, organic moments create digital magic.

Photo of a Excited Woman Holding an Ipad

However, while viral marketers know they can’t plant viral content, they can plan ahead simply by having an eye on social trends. Engaging in social listening to watch what your audience is buzzing about and following social media news, hashtags, and trends is regular homework. Consider the video challenges, dances, and quizzes that make headlines.

Make sure your organization is on the platforms that are relevant to your audience, too. If your brand appeals to a younger crowd, but you don’t know what’s happening on TikTok, you’re missing out on part of the conversation. Additionally, if your audience can’t easily share your content…well, it’s not exactly going to be part of any viral trend. Posting and promoting at the right time (and not days after a trend has ended) is important.

Whatever trends you hop on, remember that it’s about being timely and appropriate for your organization. Even though accelerated marketing can open up larger conversations and make your brand part of a bigger moment, at its heart, it still needs to apply to your core audience. As always, before you post, think about reactions. For example, consider when museums or cultural institutions take part in accelerated marketing. It’s not a risk to do so, as long as the content will appeal (and not alienate!) your core audience.

Use Accelerated Marketing (or Don’t!)

Accelerated marketing is fun, right? Absolutely! Viral content is likely to make us laugh, cry, or smile. As discussed, it’s also hard work and requires just a touch of luck. So, it is understandable that you may not want to make accelerated marketing part of your organization’s communications plan. Hopefully, your marketing plans can include a touch of fun from time to time. But it’s also possible that accelerated marketing payoff is not appropriate for your brand. For example, if your organization is small and hyper-local, or if your organization requires a serious voice for a delicate subject, skip accelerated marketing. Use your time on another aspect of your strategy.

Additionally, as much fun as viral content is, it is the dessert of your marketing campaign. No matter how much you enjoy consuming, creating, or sharing viral moments online, “going viral all the time” is not a marketing plan.

What will never go out of style in the world of marketing and communications is great content that connects with your audience. If you keep that in mind, you will make content that your audience loves and wants to share. And, hey, you might be surprised where your audience carries you!

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