In your content marketing plan, are you trying to be the next Flock of Seagulls?
Last March, after the “Kony 2012” documentary generated 70 million views in one week, the marketing community rushed to add a “Kony” to their marketing plans. If a viral video could raise awareness of a Ugandan warlord, they reasoned, maybe it could raise awareness of term life insurance, cloud-computing services, or accounting software.
Some marketers talk about “virality” as part of their game plan, as predictable as magazine circulation or a sample count for an event. What marketers forget is that no one can create a viral video, viral article, or viral image. We can only create quality content that may or may not spread virally.
The “go-viral” mindset sets marketers up for disappointment. Every minute, 48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube, but only an infinitesimally small number of those videos go viral. While YouTube shares tactics that lead to virality (e.g., the role of “tastemakers” — a big factor in the “Kony” video), we never know in advance which video will catch on. For every “double rainbow” or “ultimate dog tease” that spreads like wildfire, countless others eke out an existence in the vast YouTube desert.
In content marketing, continuity trumps virality
The long haul is more important than the short spike. Rather than chase the elusive viral video, invest in ongoing content to grow the audience over time. Use less of a campaign mentality and more of a commitment mentality.
I learned this lesson first-hand as a cartoonist. Cartooning is the classic serial medium (epitomized by 50 years of Charles Schultz’ “Peanuts”). Twelve years ago, I started posting a new marketing cartoon every week. Today, my weekly audience is 100,000 marketers. Sure, some individual cartoons are more popular than others, but the power comes from the full collection. More importantly, the value lies in the readers who tune in for every installment. Content marketing is more about the audience than about any individual piece of media.
One of the greatest viral marketing success stories, surprisingly, is Orabrush. It makes a tongue scraper to fight bad breath. Dental hygiene is certainly not the most exciting product category, but its YouTube channel has been seen 48 million times. Orabrush credits its success not to a single viral video, but to an ongoing commitment to quality content, such as the weekly webisode series, “Diary of a Dirty Tongue.”
The main advice: “Everyone is on a rampage to figure out how to make their viral video — to gain a loyal following, create a steady stream of content; it’s not enough to be a one-hit wonder.”
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