We have an internal joke when a client or prospect asks us to help them create something viral.

We say, “Sure! Have two guys kick one another in the privates and it’s sure to go viral!”

The fact of the matter is, you can’t MAKE anything go viral. It’s not about how many shares you can get from your friends and family.

It’s about great creative, great content, and some fairy magic dust.

And, just because two guys kicking one another or cute puppies might work this week doesn’t mean they won’t be overshadowed the following week by a celebrity crying over a sloth.

According to an article in The Atlantic this month, companies are installing every imaginable share button on their content, writing articles, and then praying to the viral Gods that they would become overnight success because of all of the shares.

But then, surprise! An entrepreneur named Uzi Shmilovic examined eight ways Internet giants, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, have used virality as a vehicle for success.

Shmilovic emphasizes using a “Virality Coefficient” — “how many new users on average does one user of your product ‘infect’” — to measure to virality of a piece of information. A coefficient greater than one indicates exponential growth, the type that describes wildly successful Internet campaigns like the Old Spice Guy:

viral-formula.png

So now everyone is rushing to figure out what their Virality Coefficient is in order to make their videos, podcasts, blog posts, white papers, and more go viral.

The problem, of course, is “making” something go viral isn’t possible. It’s not a mathematic equation. There are human beings with emotions involved. There is nothing mathematical or scientific about that.

And, as much as we like to think everyone uses the social web, it turns out there are plenty of people who don’t. In fact, more people use email than social media, despite the growing number of users at Facebook. Most people create their accounts, spend a few days discovering what everyone is talking about, accumulate some friends, and never return.

I have a better idea. Determine your vision.  Invest some time (as in years). Work really hard. Build a community. Empower your brand ambassadors. Listen to your critics and detractors. Make changes. And someday, somewhere, you will have something that goes viral.

Everyone will think it was an overnight success because it’s the first time they have heard of you. But you’ll know the real secret.

Hard work, patience, and perseverance trump all.

Thanks to the Daily Mumbler for providing an image to prove my point.