It was a social media ‘buzzword’ for years. Many still see it as the holy grail of social media engagement, but is it really what you want?

I’ve been ‘viral’ twice. Proper ‘why are so many people reading this’, stats increasing a hundred-fold, all eyes on me, viral. The thing is it was subjective.

My ‘viral’ experiences were pretty mild as viral experiences go. All the same they gave me a taste of the spotlight and it let me see what it can (and can’t) do.

A hundred-fold increase in views does not equal a hundred-fold increase in revenue

More visibility is brilliant. If you’re in the spotlight for the right reasons. However, it’s unlikely to result in more income (at least in the short term).

The simple reason for this is the change in content consumers. Your ‘average’ day-to-day consumers will have background knowledge of your content, your brand, your products and/or services. They may even recognise you as an individual.

Your viral consumer is more of a ‘looky-loo’ viewer/reader; they’re here because of a link a friend sent them/something they saw on a message board/seeing your content shared directly to their social media feed.

They’ll dip in, view the relevant content, and (for the most part) that will be the end of their experience. We can kid ourselves that we want to go viral but this shallow engagement will only be useful to a limited range of business models.


If you have a product or service to sell (oh my goodness would you look at that book link there!), or if you have an issue which requires increased awareness, what you really want is deep, repeatable, engagement. You want users/content consumers who can remember your name or the name of your brand. Even more importantly you want a relationship with them; something from which to develop a foundation of trust in what you do.

I enjoyed going viral (what content creator wouldn’t enjoy being seen by thousands in one day?) but I’d be mistaken if I thought this was the aim of online content. At the end of the day our content is there to engage, and to illicit a response from those who see it.

A ‘share’ is brilliant, a win for the ego, and something genuinely appreciated, but it isn’t a conversion. It doesn’t raise funds for your business or cause. Going viral is lovely but building a lasting relationship with a would-be client/buyer/contributor is the real holy grail of social media (it is for me at least).

Have you gone viral before? How did your experience differ to mine? Would you prefer huge views or deep engagement? Please feel free to comment below.

Thanks for popping by, all the best, John

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