Oh Please. Going “Viral” is Not About Luck.

Posted by Taylor Haney on Wed, Jun 26, 2013

Wrapping up our June social media theme is Mark O'Toole of HB Agency. Mark tells us about the realities of viral content; what it takes to get there, and how B2B companies are not excluded from the fun. Next month we are switching over to e-Commerce for our theme, keep an eye out for those posts starting next week!

MarkMark O’Toole directs PR and content strategies for companies at HB Agency, a marketing and communications firm that is figuring out what integrated really means for businesses. Follow Mark @markrotoole and HB @hb_agency on Twitter.

So after 48 years on this planet Earth, I finally went viral last week. And I knew it was going to happen. The writing was crisp and sarcastic and a bit controversial, yet resonated. The design was visually striking, enhanced the words, and elicited laughs, groans and head nods in all the right places. The title was catchy, shareable and blunt. The plan to share it was comprehensive and hit the right influencers. It was a team effort with lots of contributors and talent involved. We built this with the intention of showcasing our creativity, driving traffic to our site and proving that a B2B brand can be successful using social media. We made a winner and sat back and watched it take off.

Kind of.

There is so much hand-wringing around social media and content generation, especially for B2B brands. As marketers, we fret about the tone, the imagery, think thoughts such as “should we say ‘please RT’ to drive more tweets,” and spend too much effort trying to hashtag something up. All of this can make a company hesitant to put content out there.

In the end though, the basic tenets of marketing remain in play. If we identify a need and pain points, communicate thought leadership or a solution well, deliver it to the right audience and set intention around our efforts, the medium should not matter.

Back to B2B brands. Many of them do indeed have social presences, typically a sparse Twitter feed or weak Facebook page. And some have nothing at all. “Should we be there?” we hear a lot. The answer is yes for many reasons, not the least of which are improvement and additions in search results – don’t forget Google’s preference to push friend/follower search results higher up in your searches – and the credibility of being in the places buyers expect you to be.

leap of faith

So then it’s the content that becomes the challenge. Sometimes brands put up their own obstacles. Financial services brands are afraid to take risks because of compliance concerns, though some do get edgy. Manufacturing companies don’t find their production line images sexy enough for Pinterest or Instagram. Technology companies feel too complex for Vine. Technology companies tweet but find it hard to develop a concise, social voice.

How can brands develop the right social content? Can anyone go viral? The work that goes on – or should go on – behind the scenes for any social media program can be intense. Quality matters. Sometimes quantity matters too.

Communicating creatively also matters. Any business can look, feel and act creative – if they want to. Once that commitment is made, the sky’s the limit. Start simple if that’s your pace. Dress up that Facebook page. Improve your LinkedIn company page. Add to your Google+ presence. You will see engagement improve. Or, if baby steps aren’t your thing, jump in all the way.

Integrate your efforts. Use your PR team to understand where and how to engage, bring in creative services to get the look and feel right, get your brand marketing team to cull through the data to see what’s resonating, and experiment. Getting it right – going viral – may not happen right away, or ever. But reaching your audiences in visual, compelling and meaningful ways is the real opportunity that social media provides. Why would you pass up that chance?