If you were online at all last week, you probably saw one of the viral links to either a picture of a dress, or an explanation of why some people saw white/gold and some saw blue/black. I’m not going to discuss what color it is, or why people saw different colors.
I want to talk about why we cared about a picture of a dress most people wouldn’t wear.
The Mystery of Going Viral
Ultimately, the reason the dress color controversy went viral is because it connected to most people. They saw the picture, saw the colors, some saw the color change for whatever reason. So they were sharing an experience, a thing that touched them and they knew about. It was personal.
But people also saw there was a difference of opinion — a controversy. It raised questions and the media jumped in with answers to the questions. It just blew up out of proportion to a photograph because it was easy to share with a single click, and easy to get in on the debate. Let me say that again: it was easy to share.
Viral marketing has always been challenging because it’s unpredictable at best. But if you are connecting to your audience by touching on something they care about, it triggers a personal response. If your content is easy to share, it’s more apt to be shared.
The Limitations of Going Viral
From a marketing standpoint, no matter how many people had an opinion about the dress colors, what counts is how many dresses were sold. You could also count how many visitors to the site decided to explore it further. Those things depend on more than viral content — the way the site is set up determines who stays and who buys.
Most of us didn’t care enough to find out how to buy that dress because all we wanted to do was convince other people we were right about the color. That’s not the same thing as marketing, because the goal wasn’t about increasing knowledge of a product or a company.
When something we put out goes viral, the value is in what happens as a result. The goal of viral marketing should be a positive response that brings people to a site that can handle the traffic and result in boosting your business.