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Posts Tagged ‘viral

“Viral” is Fool’s Gold

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People often have legs and feet. So do collaborative ideas.

Years ago we noticed the threshold to globalization falling to the point where anyone could step over it. Back then advertisers talked about music or images that could transcend language with television and radio. And it was true: cloak your message with a mainstream song and off your product flew to sell among lands and languages previously unknown.


Today we routinely interact with people across the globe. Tweets and Tumblrs and blog posts and comments can and do come from anywhere at any time (because it’s always 17:01 somewhere). It’s mostly asynchronous. But not always—my WordPress friend in Hong Kong responds to my morning posts (his evening) and I respond to his evening posts (my morning) and it feels like real time.

Marketers and advertisers want to promise a viral result from the work they do for clients. But the bar for viral gets higher every day: interweb participants stand amazed at less and less.

More realistic: go back to the old way of focus on the important people. In this we make sure our message can be carried in a style to which our target audience is accustomed. Making sure our messages are sticky for the primary and secondary audiences we care most about is better than shooting for viral. And the first step toward sticky ideas is to simplify (not the same as dumbing-down) so the idea is quickly grasped and possibly even elegantly presented.


This simplifying process is a natural result of collaboration. Just explaining an idea in the course of a normal conversation is a step away from Teflon toward sticky. That simple act of saying it aloud helps you realize what works and what doesn’t: it’s all written in the face of the person you are explaining it to.

Start with a simple collaborative conversation to begin to move toward sticky.


Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Ratcheting Expectations in World that Demands Viral

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Again: what does success look like for my project?

Do you have outsized notions of what is important?

Of course you do.

We all do, because we assume (wrongly) that what is important to me is important to everyone. Turns out that is not the case. For all the videos or stories or songs that go viral, there are countless that arrive stillborn—at least as far as numbers go.

What shadow will your project cast?

What shadow will your project cast?

It’s easy enough to see that not everyone shares our passions and drives. Not everyone is fascinated by Star Wars or Wes Anderson films, for instance. Not everyone longs to spend hours tinkering with their lawn, or building perfect pectorals or diagramming the stars in the night sky. Not everyone asks “Why?” Not everyone asks “How can I do that myself?”

So if we are looking for our idea to go viral, we had better negotiate together what we consider viral. Will my idea get 3 million views? 3000? 30? And which am I satisfied with? What can we be satisfied with? That’s worth talking about before a project goes out the door.

I’m reminded of that bit of faith that writing will find its audience. As we prepare to launch our idea, and as we talk about who is open to hearing/acting on the idea, some frank talk about what success looks like will help immensely. Realistic expectations at the beginning of the project will help set the stage for the eventual self-scourgings or pats on the back, in a week or month or year, when you see how the project did or did not do.

And for the artist or writer—just doing the work may be enough.

And maybe that is not a bad place to dwell.


Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

May 29, 2014 at 10:13 am

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