Viral hit and a miss: Fame and notoriety isn't the same as engagement

Rachael Micallef
By Rachael Micallef | 25 September 2014

Brands look up to content like the Super Bowl Oreo spot or Old Spice Man adverts as the golden egg for viral exposure, but trying to go viral for the sake of it isn't as valuable as content that reaches the right audience, at the right time.

DDB Australia head of social Karalee Evans believes that too many brands are going viral for the sake of going viral, and losing brand messaging in the process.

Speaking at a Social Media Week, panel Evans said real-time engagement can be a powerful tool for customer services or owning a conversation, but too often brands hijack the technology for fame or notoriety.

“There is an element to real-time engagement in social from brands which is fame or the seeking of going viral. I think the risk to real-time engagement from that perspective is that you completely forget why you’re engaging on social in the first place,” Evans said.

“Does it have any link to what you brand is, what your product is, what your community or customers care about? If it doesn’t, then why are you jumping in? Are you just jumping in for the sake of it?”

Evans added that the changes to the Facebook algorithm which make the feed default to top stories rather than most recent is not supporting real time engagement, meaning that brands aiming to drive viral content have to put money behind it, so going viral organically is rare.

With brands increasingly asking ROI questions related to viral content, Evans said it's important to define where the actions are for any type of real-time engagement strategy and ensure it fits into a wider marketing strategy. Otherwise, marketers should question why they're jumping into the real-time engagement pool.

Ainslee Hunter, interactivity producer for ABC's Q and A program, said that advertisers or brands that believe they can control “going viral” are mistaken, and that no one can make any content that will be viral in any planned sense.

National Rugby League digital marketing manager Matt Henry added that while viral might be the real-time strategy that receives the most attention, but using methods such as AB testing is a more data driven way to use real-time content.

“Everyone always talks about real-time content and real-time marketing as the funny tweet where they’re not supposed to be, but real-time content can be data driven advertising done at the right time, on the right platform, to the right people,” Henry said,

“It’s not just about trying to come up with something really creative on social it’s about having really smart planning and data driven marketing too.”

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