Trying to Go Viral? You’re Missing the Real Point of Social Media

Over the short history of social media, we have seen a lot of content go viral. From videos of families being reunited with loved ones returning from war, to pictures of crazy Walmart shoppers, there is a lot of media that everyone seems to know about. A great example of a photo that has taken social media by storm is the selfie that Ellen DeGeneres posted while hosting the Oscars on March 2. Her photo, crammed with A-list actors, was retweeted so many times that it even “broke” Twitter, crashing the server. It also crushed Twitter’s retweet record by being shared over 2 million times.

Going viral is defined ( as a marketing strategy that focuses on spreading information and opinions about a product or service from person to person, especially by using unconventional means such as the Internet or e-mail. This is exactly what Ellen accomplished.

After the success of the photo tweeted by Ellen and the buzz that has resulted from it, small businesses may be wondering what they can learn from it, or how they could do something similar. While I don’t think small businesses expect to break the retweet record, some do focus their social media strategy on going viral. It’s time to come to terms with the fact that your company tweet, or any type of social media post for that matter, is probably never going to be seen by millions of people.

After that soul-crushing fact, there is some good news: Going viral shouldn’t be your goal anyway. Of course, if somehow your post does end up becoming wildly popular, then hats off to you, but that’s not the point. Local small businesses should try to establish trust with their posts, prove that they are experts in their field and aim to be consistent and engaging.

For example, get your followers involved by asking their opinion or about their experiences. Try to figure out what your audience responds to and take advantage of that. Post old photos of yourself on “Throw Back Thursday,” and share links of relevant news stories. It’s OK to use social media not to try to gain national fame, but to build relationships. You want your followers to keep coming back for more, and you can do that by getting your audience involved.

A lot of what goes viral are posts that are hot in the moment, but are soon forgotten. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest should be a resource for your clients, with blogs and other posts that they want to come back to for reference. Even though posting something that’s trending can be beneficial on occasion, having high-quality, useful information to share should be at the top of your list.

A company’s focus on social media should be to build your brand, engage your followers and post relevant information. And who knows, maybe something you post will accidentally become the next Grumpy Cat.

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