Why do brands need to be immunized for a new viral affliction?

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Ramya Narayanan- AVP Digital Strategy And Planning at Indigo Consulting

Ramya Narayanan, AVP Digital Strategy and Planning at Indigo Consulting, sheds light on the realities of virality and viral content for brands

Today, the deluge of brands jumping on to the bandwagon to either ride or create trends that reach millions of consumers at minuscule budgets are increasing by the number.

Virality is as fleeting, as the consumer’s attention span today, every day there is something new.

We discuss brands who are obsessed with ‘organic virality’ – they are not only tight with the purse but insist on pushing the brand/product first agenda, in the consumer first universe. Brands need to understand that digital is not just about ‘viral’ short-term goals, it about leveraging the medium to achieve a larger objective.

Also read: How digital marketing can fuel a Startup to achieve uncommon success?

But like most delusions, these

stem from sticky beliefs that ignore observable evidence to the contrary.

Belief 1: If I create good content, it will go viral or

spread on its own

Almost all brands love to

liberally and loosely use the word ‘viral’, assuming that like a virus, any

content with its inherent qualities, should be enough to attract admirers. But

even a virus needs to be ‘exposed’ to adequately affect the populace.

Expecting good content to spread

out on its own is tantamount to believing that if patient zero (i.e. our

content) chooses to sit at home (i.e. brand social pages), that people would

come of their own volition to get infected.

Reality 1: Let’s

assume that brands want to create good content that isn’t just about pawning

their wares but to cater to the interest of their target group. Still, the odds

are stacked against them. This is because:

  • Platforms Favour Conversation: The algorithm changes on Facebook–the platform with the highest reach–that clearly prioritizes meaningful transactions between family and friends over branded content. Even on Twitter and Instagram posts with more conversations, interactions, recency and author credibility matter more in timeline visibility.
  • Brands

    Struggling With Interaction:
    This means that all brand pages

    ideally need to work towards creating conversations around their content. Even

    today, that’s a challenge as most comments on brand pages are complaints, and

    most interactions on most pages lean heavily towards lazy likes. Positive

    conversations and shares are often few and far between. Very few brands have

    managed to break out of their self-inflicted restraints and venture beyond the

    annual brand campaign to engage with fans, superficially around an issue.
  • Living Catatonic User Base: Brands are using cause campaigns periodically to revive a ‘fan base’ reduced to a catatonic state by inflicting a constant stream of a product or service-related news.
  • The Dominos

    All Fall to Reveal:
    Getting fan eyeballs organically

    requires a bit more long-term investment in tactics that most brands are

    willing to admit.

We looked at *numbers across brand categories of BSFI, Tech, Entertainment, Fast Food Brands, Transport, and Hair Care. It was observed that that on an average Organic reach was less than 2% of their fan base.


*Source: Brands Organic Reach Across 6 Categories over last year. (Tool: Facebook Analytics)

Belief 2: Loyal fans who love the brand will come to my page

The classic ‘The mountain will

come to Muhammad’ belief. Every brand dreams of inspiring a passionate cult
around themselves, their product but the reality is that very few brands can

command the ‘iconic’ status, and then retain it.

Reality 2: Experienced

marketers would know that loyalty is selfish, always linked to a ‘functional

need’ in most cases, and ‘emotional’ in a few. However, brand love lives in a

Tinder universe, where relationships are not exclusive, are ephemeral, and open

to being wooed by the next new caped hero, who promises the world. Meaning:

  • People aren’t waiting on your wall to throw praise at everything you do, in fact, it's among the last thing on their mind:

*Source: GWI 2019 - Audience 18-35yrs - Digital Behaviour

Effortless unplanned organic

content is dead, isn’t it? If you are one of those brands whose focus is to

primarily pawn products on social, then you shouldn’t expect users to engage or

converse with you outside of “functional” product/service. However, if your

objective is to engage or converse with your audience or have a dual purpose

(product/engage) then, you need to adequately invest in both.

No matter what your objectives

are, you need to keep in mind that periodic engagement needs to be supported,

and that building a community is a long-term commitment, not a short-term whim.

We posit that virality is an output of a commitment that needs a practical strategy stemmed in a consumer's first reality on digital, without ignoring business/brand objectives:

1.) Purpose of Existence

2.) Experiment with content

3.) Device a long-term plan and invest in it.

The piece is authored by Ramya Narayanan, AVP Digital Strategy And Planning at Indigo Consulting.

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