Content Strategy: Why Going Viral Isn’t Always a Good Thing for Brands Targeting Gen Z
In today’s digital landscape, the pursuit of viral success has become a prominent goal for companies seeking to keep up with the Joneses’ and reach a young audience on TikTok, REELs, Threads, or, Shorts, etc. The allure of quick and widespread visibility is tempting, but it’s crucial to consider the unrealistic expectations at play if directing a team to “Go Viral.”
While viral content initially boosts engagement, it’s hit or miss if they align with your primary targeted segment. Especially as youth and niche marketers, it’s imperative to understand the importance of fostering engagement and cultivating lasting connections with our audience.
Don’t Just Take Our Word for It: Examples of Virality Gone Wrong
Ah, the power of beer and social media. If you’re a fan of the hoppy goodness or just a regular social media user, you probably caught wind of the recent uproar surrounding Bud Light’s partnership with the viral transgender advocate, actor, and TikTok personality Dylan Mulvaney.
As an integral part of Bud Light’s current ad campaign aimed at appealing to the LGBTQ+ community, Mulvaney shared content across all platforms featuring Bud Light products while promoting the brand’s inclusive message, “inclusivity among modern beer drinkers and bringing people together.” The conservative side of the internet went into a transphobic and homophobic frenzy as the campaign sparked mega controversy, leading to a boycott at scale. Conservatives stopped buying Bud Light, causing Modelo to take over the #1 selling beer in America. The negative consequences of this viral response hurt the brand’s image, and sales, causing two marketing executives to go on leave.
We’ll just have to wait and see if the ex-fans come crawling back after they realize what they’re missing out on.
Years back, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) launched a campaign called Earth Hour that quickly went viral. The idea was simple: for one hour, people around the world would turn off their lights as a symbol of their commitment to fighting climate change. Millions of people participated, and the event was covered extensively in the media. However, while the campaign did succeed in raising awareness about environmental issues, critics argued that it failed to engage its target audience in a meaningful way or inspire long-term behavior change. Meaning, people just continued to use their electricity normally. In other words, people simply continued to use their electricity normally after the one-hour event.
What the campaign lacked was sustained engagement and meaningful incentives for participants to change their habits. While it may have been effective at capturing people’s attention for a brief moment, it failed to provide them with the tools and motivation to make lasting changes to their energy consumption.
4 Reasons Why Steady Storytelling vs. Viral Roller Coaster Rides Win the Youth Content Game:
Below, we examine four key reasons why the steady storytelling over striving for a viral hit is best to achieve youth engagement goals. By understanding these drawbacks more deeply, we can navigate the digital landscape more strategically and concentrate on developing meaningful relationships with our audience.
1. Viral Often Sacrifices Niche Audience Alignment, Missing the Mark
When your content goes viral, it reaches a much wider audience than you may have initially intended. This means people who you are not intending to reach and may have low likelihood of converting to a sign-up, sale or other form of action desired. As a result, your original message may miss the opportunity to drive brand or business outcomes.
2. Long-Term Content Impact Matters More Than a Viral Hit
While going viral can bring overnight fame and recognition, it’s important to remember that the internet is a fast-paced environment with a short attention span. Today’s viral sensation is often forgotten tomorrow. Relying solely on virality for long-term success is not a sustainable strategy, as it doesn’t guarantee continued engagement or loyalty from your audience.
3. Protect Your Brand From An Overload Of Viral Content Criticism
When content goes viral, it can attract intense scrutiny and negative feedback. To protect your brand, align your content with your target audience and be prepared for potential criticism. Proactively manage your brand’s practices, address concerns, and stay transparent. By taking these steps, you can navigate the risks associated with viral content while maintaining a positive online presence and safeguarding your brand’s reputation.
Since a brand cannot fully control who their content reaches at all times, it is crucial to ensure that the source of the content, from ideation to execution, is intentionally designed and aligned with the brand’s target audience. The more people your content reaches, the higher the chances of encountering criticism or negative feedback. In some cases, going viral can lead to intense scrutiny and backlash from those who disagree with or take offense to your content.
4. Unrealistic Pressure to Replicate Viral Engagement
Finally, going viral can create unrealistic expectations for future success. Once you’ve experienced the high virality, it can be challenging to replicate that level of engagement and reach with your subsequent content. This pressure to consistently produce viral hits can lead to creative burnout or a decline in the quality of your work.
Conclusion to Consider:
In the pursuit of viral success, brands must tread carefully. While it may seem tempting to chase after fleeting fame, the true power lies in steady storytelling and meaningful engagement. The examples of Bud Light’s controversial partnership and the WWF’s short-lived campaign remind us that going viral doesn’t always translate to long-term impact.
Protect your brand from the pitfalls of virality by aligning your content, addressing criticism, and focusing on sustained connections with your audience. Remember, it’s the steady journey, not the viral roller coaster, that wins the youth content game.