Don’t Try to Be the Next Chewbacca Lady

“Make this go viral.”

It’s the elusive goal of every social media manager, the breathless request of the brand boss, the aim of every digital agency.

And it’s not a strategy, insists Jose Duarte writing in AdAge.

“In social’s fledgling days, many brands made the mistake of thinking of social media merely as a channel for PR announcements and light customer care. These brands were left behind by forward-thinking brands that fully embraced the new interactive world of social and capitalized on the free impressions that networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, offered,” Duarte writes.

“In 2019 the social media world is much more fragmented, saturated and noisy. No longer can brands spray and pray Facebook posts and hope that one goes viral eventually,” Duarte continues. “It’s OK if that happens but centering your efforts on something as random as virality is a recipe for trouble.”

Some of the viral hits are just dumb luck. A woman dons a laughing Chewbacca mask and 11 million views later, she’s a viral star. Hasbro, the brand that markets the mask, puts the lady in a Halloween commercial and it falls flat. This kind of “let’s go viral” lottery approach just doesn’t work. Instead, Duarte says brands need to ask themselves some key questions:

  • Does our brand voice and persona on social fit our wider brand?
  • Are we using social mostly as a PR channel?
  • Are we relying solely on organic?
  • Do we have clear goals and metrics of success on our social platforms?
  • Do we have a paid media strategy for social?

“Brands that play the viral lottery tend to limit their use of social media to awareness and customer care activities,” Duarte explains. Brands that use social media more strategically, he believes, are more likely to hit on the kind of spontaneous, authentic interaction that makes brands momentarily famous – like the epic Oreo tweet during the Super Bowl blackout.

“Having one of my posts unexpectedly go viral was exciting to watch when I ran big social media accounts,” Duarte continues. “However, those moments seldom translated into revenue, and the business value was ephemeral and hard to measure. Brands that treat social as a full channel can avoid those pitfalls, and see their efforts translate directly into sales, engagement, and every once in a while, virality.”

So the next time you’re tempted to ask your social media manager for a viral hit, ask yourself what you’re really looking for. Awareness? Engagement? Loyalty and advocacy from a growing audience? Or flash-in-the-pan metrics that may be awesome in the moment but do little to move the metrics that matter?