5 Surefire Ways NOT To Go Viral (And Annoy Your Friends)

If everybody new how to go viral and get web-famous, they would. Since you've never heard of me, I clearly don't either. I sure know a lot of ways to fail miserably at it though: here are just five.

The rise of social media and sharing has not only provided internet users with an even greater well of information and amusement: it’s also brought the opportunity for individual web glory and corporate dominance through the phenomena of viral memes (video or otherwise) and marketing schemes. But viral success is an elusive beast with no sure path to success. However, there are certainly a million ways NOT to spread like wildfire (or even cause a fizzle). Here are five, the doing away with of which would surely make the internet a better place.

5. Faking it. Look, even the rocket scientists at ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’ manage to sift out the staged sliding-door-run-ins, face-plants and nut-shots with little to no trouble. So sad as the following reason is; due to the sheer volume of genuine pain, embarrassment and oddballs available online, your target audience is incredibly savvy about the validity of what they’re watching. It’s going to be no good for your self-esteem when a six year old calls you out on your weak stab at web-glory.

4. Being ‘The Guy With The Reply.’ Not only is this lazy, it pisses off the same people that you’re trying to draw in. Pop-quiz: what’s the fastest way to enrage a kid who’s just been told by her best friend to search out the funniest new meme, news report or novelty tune before it becomes old hat? No, not Rickroll her – fine guess though. (Personally, my reaction to being rickrolled is still a begrudging ‘Well played, sir,’ and then enjoying three and a half minutes of some 80’s goodness.) No, the answer is to misleadingly title and provide her with, instead of the original, a video of yourself sagely discussing your thoughts – or better yet – criticisms of this latest phenomenon. When I want a pop culture dissertation from Prof. Junior Sonaffabitch, I’ll watch ‘Are you smarter than a 5th Grader.’ (Incidentally, from my limited viewing of this program, apparently I am not.)

3. Begging everyone you know and a bunch you don’t. I see the problem. You fail to understand the definition of viral. You, know, like a virus. Okay. Imagine a guy coming back from Panama, unknowingly carrying the latest strain of the airborne Bora-Bora-Dora-The-Explora (or whatever) virus. How’s it spread? He transmits it to some passengers, some people in the airport and his family when he gets home (“Merry Christmas kids, here’s a gift from the tropics!” *cough*) They in turn pass it on to those they come in contact with and so on. Now let’s picture him as a malicious little bastard who wants to spread said virus about the world, but it can only be caught directly from him – and the person he’s in contact with gets to choose whether to pass it on or even take it in the first place. Slow going, eh? If what you’ve got is gold: tell your friends, post on a few blogs then sit back and be adored by millions.

2. Being a jerk/disgusting/highly promiscuous. Daniel Tosh has a lock on the first two and Tila Tequilla on the third. And they’re better at it than you.

1. Trying to go viral. This is not at all a contradiction. Of late, the majority of viral videos have been of real occurrences, news reports and bat-poop crazy people that luckily were close enough to an iphone to be documented. Music videos such as Lady Gaga’s ‘Telephone’ and Kanye’s ‘Runaway’ were (love or hate their music and personalities) conceptually fantastic and succeeded on their own merit rather than a gimmick or solely the artists’ star power. When looking at the great songs that have done the same (eg. Cee-Lo’s ‘F*** You’) they were exactly that: great songs with great themes. And as counter-productive as it sounds at first blush, I’d contend it goes for viral marketing as well. It could be argued that the one thing that ties all successful viral memes and marketing campaigns together is that they generally have very little, really, in common. When you or your ad company start(s) thinking ‘how can this go viral?’, you’re tempted to think in terms of what’s worked before and that’s a road to failure right there (see the scores of failed campaigns involving rapping octogenarians). Rather, think of an idea that’s just plain entertaining whether you saw it online or acted out on the sidewalk. Fun whether it was an e-game or a board game. Funny whether it’s a .bmp or a billboard. And yes, sex sells, but again due to the sheer proliferation of increasingly sexual content on line you’d better find the sexiest individuals alive or else have a product and theme that allows scantily clad females to appear to be making out for legitimate reasons. The one thing that seems to be a constant in successful viral marketing is a great choice of person or character to centre your campaign, ad or e-game around. Any old lady in the Superbowl Snickers ad would have been mildly entertaining. Betty White – effin’ genius. And if you’re still not convinced, check out Kevin Bacon’s biggest fan.

Best of luck and see you around (but probably not on youtube).