Blog Marketing China Marketing

Why You Can’t Create Viral Content!

Content marketing and cats“Damn Cats always distracting people from my great content!”

Introduction to Viral Content

If you are in charge of any content marketing than your boss is probably asking you every day to create something that will “go viral”. Maybe, you are a blogger (like me) who wants to reach more people.

Whatever your reason may be for wanting to create viral content, you will soon find it is difficult to produce. So, what is viral content? Viral content spreads like a virus……. from one person to the next, viral content is content people want to share with their friends and co-works.

Why Content Goes Viral

Content goes viral because it is worth sharing. The reason your content (and mine) never goes viral is because it is boring. I write about marketing for a very small group of people, so the majority of people do not find it interesting. It’s boring and not worth sharing to all their friends. Does that make it useless? No, I write good content, but it’s not for everyone. So, what do people share? They share drama, controversy, humor and shocking content. They share content that makes them feel something.

Ever site I visit that talks about content marketing always talks about creating better content. “If you write better more people will come and interact with your site.” This isn’t entirely true. Look at sites like Cracked, Mashable, or Buzzfeed; the writing on these sites is pretty poor yet, every day I see something from these sites in my news feeds. Why? Because their content makes you feel something. These sites usually have humorous posts about childhood cartoons, “Top 5 List”, “Top 10 List”, or some other catchy headline. What they don’t have are great writers. They have mediocre writers that are really good at creating a lot of relatable posts.

The key to making something go viral is to make something that other people can relate to and have strong feelings about.

  1. Why China is worse than Nazi Germany
  2. 100 Pictures of Vladimir Putin wearing Gay Hats
  3. The 10 best ways to eat chocolate naked
  4.  Why the Democrats should grow up…. and die!
  5.  China Has More Internet Monitors Than Soldiers

Would you read any of the above content? (The first 4 I made up) The point I am trying to make is viral content is more about creating content that relates to the masses. People will share content that they think their friends will find interesting. This article titled “Why Do People Share Content?” talks about the different reasons people share content.

Why did this video of a Chinese woman beating her boyfriend go viral? (Youku) (+2 million views in 4 days) This went viral because it is shocking and a lot of Chinese men and women can relate to this situation. Either they have been in a relationship like this or they know someone who has been in one. For the rest of us it is a shocking look into a different culture. (Or a really interesting McDonald’s ad….)

Why do these stupid e-cards go viral? Because everybody hates Monday, loves Friday, owns (can relate to) pets, has family members, drinks (can relate to drinking), can relate to love or a break up, has a job, etc. We are all tired of them, but yet we still read them because we can relate to them and it lets us know how our friends feel and think about random topics.

Viral Content

Difficult to Create Viral Content

The difficulty of creating viral content is many content marketers are constrained by their company or brand. I can’t write any of the above topics because my brand is “Marketing in China.” If I was to write about “Why China is worse than Nazi Germany” it would probably get a lot of traffic and might go viral in the China expat sphere, but my brand doesn’t allow me to write it. It is off topic and doesn’t add value to the people I am trying to reach. Also, it’s controversial I would have to point out a lot of things about China that many people may or may not agree with, it puts my brand at risk. Take a look at what happened to Chick-fil-A when their president made a controversial statement about gay marriage. The media firestorm that ensued caused the company a lot of PR problems and even though sales improved, the company took a big hit in brand image.

Often times, the brands you work with are the reason your content will not go viral. There is a big risk in going viral. If you go viral for the wrong post or end up on the “wrong side” it may damage your company’s brand. Companies like Buzzfeed, Cracked, and Mashable don’t have a problem with writing about anything because that is their brand image. They create viral content. Nike makes sportswear, making shoes go viral is difficult. Nike can’t produce content like “Nike Sportswear kept Nazi soldiers dry during WWII”, “African Child soldiers prefer Nike kicks over Addis” or “Nike Fuel tracks how good you are in bed” but Buzz Feed can produce this content. (Note to self: contact Buzz Feed.)

child soldier viral content nike logo

How to Change Your Ways

Well, you don’t have to change your ways. You can produce a lot of mediocre content that doesn’t improve your brand and attracts a lot of traffic that will never convert to sales or you can specialize and make content your core audience is interested in. I feel too many content marketers are looking for that one great post and some may get it, but one post will not change much. Content marketing is about consistently providing quality content over time. You would be better served finding out what your core audience finds interesting or important and making one in-depth quality post a week than creating catchy headlines every hour.


The point I am trying to drive home is making content that everyone can relate to is tricky and useless to your brand. You don’t have to go viral. If you produce content that your core audience finds useful and interesting they will share it with likeminded individuals. What is the point of getting one million views on every post if it never coverts to sales. I would rather have 100 views to every post by individuals in my target audience and make one sale. It really depends on your content marketing goal. I believe you should define your goal long before you start any content marketing because without a clear goal you will end up chasing numbers (views) and ultimately failing.

Any thoughts on content marketing and viral content?

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    October 9, 2013 at 12:19 am

    Why your content does not go viral and why you don’t want it too… that’s my summary of your post.

    I agree, viral is NOT necessarily a good thing.

    Viral makes me think of virus, and who wants a virus?

    Long live the meaningful brands with meaningful content.

    Hey, how about perfect timing… look at the stats on this tweet… not bad, viral perhaps not, but seriously good numbers in the “retweets” and “favorites”.

    Question, is it because of: 1) who tweeted; 2) the number of followers he has; 3) because the content was solid?

    Either way, note to self, tweet more stats. People like stats.

    Top languages spoken (as 1st language): 1 Mandarin Chinese 12.44% 2 Spanish 4.85% 3 English 4.83% 4 Arabic 3.25% 5 Hindi 2.68%— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) October 8, 2013

    • Reply
      Chairman Migo
      October 9, 2013 at 12:41 am

      Not a bad summary. I think going viral is important if you make it your goal but you shouldn’t make it your goal if it’s not important to your company or brand. Interesting tweet and I do think people like stats. It’s kind of a benchmark we can point to and say “well according to (insert stat)….. Blah, blah, blah” Thanks for the input.

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.