Why Going Viral Isn’t Always Good for Your Business

Have you heard of the Binley Mega Chippy? It took the internet by storm back in 2022 when it became a TikTok sensation overnight. It’s strangely enough my local chippy! But unfortunately (or fortunately) this marketing campaign or more likely fluke was nothing to do with us. In fact even the owner was bemused (see what happened here).

Often when we speak to a business about working with them, they say, how can you make us go viral? Well, that’s the million dollar question, but is going viral all its cracked up to be? Here are 5 reasons why we think it can cause more harm to your business than good.

Why Going Viral Isn’t Always Good for Your Business

Viral Posts have a Short-Lived Attention

One of the defining characteristics of viral content is its fleeting nature. While it may seem like a dream come true to experience a sudden surge in popularity, the reality is that viral posts often have a remarkably short-lived lifespan. Platforms like TikTok are notorious for their rapidly evolving trends, where what’s popular one day may become obsolete the next. This unpredictability can be a significant challenge for businesses that ride the viral wave. Just as quickly as they rose to fame, they can find themselves struggling to maintain the momentum generated during their viral moment. The audience’s attention span can be unforgiving, as they swiftly move on to the next big thing. Consequently, this abrupt shift can result in a stark decline in engagement and sales, ultimately leaving businesses right back where they started, if not worse off than before.

In this age of instant gratification, the ephemeral nature of viral content underscores the importance of a more sustainable and strategic approach to building a brand or business. Rather than solely relying on viral moments, focusing on long-term strategies and cultivating a loyal customer base can be a more reliable path to enduring success. While going viral can certainly have its advantages, the transient nature of such fame makes it a double-edged sword that businesses must handle with caution to avoid being caught in the unpredictable currents of the digital world.

If we know the attention is short-lived we need to encourage those digital visitors to sign up to our emails and apps so that when the dust settles we can nuture them and keep them coming back for more.

Viral Posts have a Lack of Targeted Audience

The allure of viral content lies in its ability to reach millions of people across the internet. However, this wide reach can often attract a broad and diverse audience that might not share a genuine interest in your products or services. It’s akin to casting a net into the sea and catching fish of all sizes and species, some of which may not be the ones you were hoping for. While having a large following can certainly boost your online presence and ego, it doesn’t necessarily equate to a successful business. The conversion of these viral viewers into paying customers can be a daunting challenge, as many of them may have no prior interest in your offerings, and their engagement is often fleeting.

For businesses, the key to sustainable growth lies in cultivating a smaller, engaged, and targeted audience. These are the individuals genuinely interested in what your brand has to offer, and their loyalty and repeat business are more valuable than a transient viral crowd. By focusing on attracting and retaining this specific segment of your audience, you can build a community of customers who are more likely to convert, advocate for your brand, and contribute to your long-term success. In essence, quality engagement with a tailored audience trumps the quantity of random clicks or likes generated by a viral post.

Viral Posts are a Brand Image Risk

The unpredictable nature of viral content can be a double-edged sword for businesses, as it often comes with a substantial risk to their brand image. When a post goes viral on TikTok, it can quickly spiral out of control, leading to associations with unintended or even controversial content. The viral spotlight can attract all sorts of attention, including negative and critical voices, trolls, and competitors looking to exploit any misstep. This intense scrutiny can be particularly hazardous, as it can tarnish your brand image in an instant. Once a brand’s reputation is compromised, the process of repair becomes an uphill battle. The potential long-term consequences can include a loss of trust from customers, diminished credibility in the market, and lasting damage to the overall brand equity.

To mitigate these risks, businesses must maintain a keen awareness of the potential pitfalls associated with virality and exercise caution when pursuing it. A carefully thought-out content strategy should prioritise maintaining a consistent and positive brand image while navigating the volatile world of social media trends. This approach not only helps safeguard your reputation but also ensures that any attention your business garners is aligned with your values and messaging, reducing the risk of unexpected negative associations.

Viral Posts give Unrealistic Expectations

Viral content often sets unrealistic expectations for businesses, as it portrays a skewed view of what it takes to achieve success in the digital age. Going viral is akin to winning the lottery – it’s a stroke of luck that happens to a select few. However, when businesses witness others’ rapid and seemingly effortless rise to stardom through a viral post, it can create a misleading notion that achieving the same is both easy and common. This can lead to unrealistic expectations, with companies believing that the key to success lies solely in creating the next viral sensation. The truth is that viral content is unpredictable, and its success is often influenced by factors beyond one’s control, such as timing and trends. Businesses that solely chase viral fame may find themselves disappointed, disillusioned, and unable to sustain their efforts in the long term.

Focusing on viral content can also divert attention away from more essential aspects of a business. While the allure of instant fame is powerful, it can eclipse the necessity of meaningful, consistent customer engagement, maintaining high-quality product or service delivery, and the development of well-thought-out long-term growth strategies. When businesses neglect these core components of their operations, they risk losing sight of the fundamentals that underpin their success. Over time, such a fixation on virality can erode a company’s sustainability and hinder its ability to build a strong, resilient business that endures beyond fleeting moments of internet fame.

Viral Posts Mean Fluctuating Sales

The misconception that viral content invariably leads to increased sales can be a pitfall for businesses. Going viral often generates substantial brand awareness, attracting a surge of traffic to your website or social media accounts. However, the correlation between increased visibility and higher sales is not always straightforward. Some viral content might not effectively promote your products or services, causing a mismatch between the viral spotlight and actual consumer interest. This disconnect can lead to a paradox where a business observes a spike in website traffic or a surge in social media followers without a proportional increase in sales. While a sudden influx of attention can be exhilarating, it can also be disheartening and misleading if it fails to translate into tangible revenue.

Businesses should be cautious about assuming that virality will automatically result in a boost in sales. The real challenge lies in converting the fleeting attention of viral spectators into genuine, long-term customers. It’s crucial to have a strategic plan in place that seamlessly integrates viral success with the sales funnel. This may involve creating follow-up content that directly engages and educates your newfound audience about your products or services, as well as offering special promotions or incentives to convert viral attention into actual sales. Failing to bridge the gap between virality and sales can leave businesses with a massive influx of transient interest but without the steady, sustainable revenue needed for long-term growth.

Examples of When Viral Posts have Gone Wrong for Big Brands

Examples of When Viral Posts go Wrong

Here are 5 examples of viral social media posts going wrong for UK brands in the last 2 years-

Walkers Crisps Twitter Q&A – Users hijacked Walkers’ Twitter Q&A in 2021, asking absurd questions that highlighted crises like wealth inequality, damaging the brand’s image.

Burger King Mouldy Whopper Ad – BK’s 2021 print ad showing a mouldy Whopper backfired, with people calling it disgusting despite its anti-waste intent.

Pret A Manger’s Intern Advert – Pret received backlash in 2020 for an advert seeking an intern with 5 years’ experience and a master’s degree but no pay.

BrewDog’s Pink IPA Breast Cancer Fail – Brewdog’s 2020 “Pink IPA” tied to Breast Cancer Awareness Month sparked anger for commodifying a serious cause.

ASDA Casserole Recipe Tweet – In 2021, ASDA faced ridicule over a now-deleted tweet suggesting people add discs of chocolate orange to a freezer casserole, calling it “fake” and dangerous.

These examples show how viral posts, even from big brands, can quickly spiral out of control without considering public reception and potential insensitive interpretations. Social listening is key to avoid tone-deaf messaging.

Look Beyond the Lure of Instant Fame

In a world obsessed with viral content, it’s crucial for businesses to look beyond the lure of instant fame and consider the potential downsides. Going viral on TikTok isn’t always a good thing for your business; it can lead to short-lived attention, an untargeted audience, brand image risks, unrealistic expectations, and fluctuating sales. Instead of chasing virality, focus on building a sustainable and loyal customer base, providing high-quality products or services, and fostering long-term growth. While TikTok sensation status might be tempting, the real success of your business lies in creating lasting value rather than fleeting fame.

We took inspiration for this blog from a great article that our friend Ellen Manning wrote, if you are interested to read more check it out here.

Work with Piece of Cake Marketing to Create Engaging Content

If you need some inspiration or support with your content creation and planning for your social media accounts, Piece of Cake marketing can help.  Ask us about our social media content creation service. We will look to prepare your social media content calendar for the month, based on your marketing objectives.  To find out more, check out our website here: Social Media Content Creation Service.