These words are enough to make any honest reputable social media marketer laugh. Then cringe. And then sigh. In the world of social media marketing, whether you’re a big business or small, going viral is the Holy Grail. But the fact of the matter is that you can’t make anything go viral.

For those who live under a rock, going viral refers to the fact that your content, whether it’s a video, blog, tweet, post or image, resonates so profoundly with the audience that they feel the need to share it with their contacts, who in turn share it with their contacts and so on. The content then becomes extremely popular in a very short amount of time. Going viral is the ultimate goal of any social media campaign. It’s equivalent to those proverbial “15 minutes of fame.” 

What Makes Content Go Viral?

While many social media “gurus” will tell you the recipe for virility is easy, when you’re dealing with factors that include sentiment, personal preference and emotional response, the outcome is often unpredictable and unrepeatable. The frustrating truth of the matter is that most content will not go viral; no matter how hard you try. In order to create an effective marketing strategy, you need hard work, dedication and a clear vision of what you’re working toward. It’s also important to take the time and effort to build your online audience since, in the end; it will be that audience that determines whether or not your content goes viral.

For those who deal in absolutes, I do have a few suggestions to increase the odds that your content will go viral: 

  • Keep it Simple – Some people don’t like to think so hard
  • Keep it Relevant – Find out what people are talking about and what they are interested in
  • Be Absurd – Think outside the box and give your content a surprise twist
  • Don’t Sell – Since most people don’t like to be sold to, take your company (mostly) out of it.
  • Make it Relatable – Make your audience laugh or cry or gag or want to hit something
  • Make a List – People love lists. Think David Letterman
  • Create a Catch Phrase – Do you still remember “Where’s the beef?”
  • Make Sharing Easy – Allow video to be embedded, put share buttons on your web or blog page
  • Use a Cat – Cuz people just love cats

So, to all you small (and big) business owners out there, please remember that despite your best efforts, you cannot make your content go viral. You can hope for it, you can wish for it, you can create the best and most engaging content you can with the desire that will it seize your audience and provoke a contagious attack of sharing but you cannot make it go viral. So go ahead, create your content and try to accept the fact that, at the end of the day, it’s your audience that will make the ultimate decision about whether it goes viral or not. Well, that and a little pixie dust!