Recently, a video of a guy trying to fold paper more than 7 times with a hydraulic press made it to the front page of Reddit. If that sounds boring, it is not; the man behind the camera has a charming Finnish accent and, spoiler alert, the attempt to fold the paper ends in a (relatively) spectacular explosion.
That is not the remarkable part, though. The remarkable part is that when the video made the front page, its host, the Hydraulic Press Channel, had posted its last video 4 months prior and had just 48 subscribers. Today, his page has over 270,000 subscribers and the original video has over 8 million views. Subsequent videos by the Hydraulic Press Channel, including a hilarious one of him crushing a hockey puck, have hopped aboard the Reddit train and risen straight to the front page.
It is a story we have all come to love: Content is published to a small audience, content gets picked up by just the right person at just the right time, content goes viral and, well, you know the rest. What could be better than going viral? Not much, I would think, even if it leads to only 15 minutes of fame.
Now for the bad news: This is not going to happen to you.
Okay. I cannot say with 100 percent certainty that you will not go viral. But here is what I can say. For every Hydraulic Press Channel that goes viral, there are thousands more that do not. Thousands have a subscriber base that hovers around 50, and never goes any higher.
Consider this: Content that just “went viral” probably did not. (This video being a notable exception to that statement.) These days, there are entire content creation studios dedicated to making videos go viral. And even they — whose sole job it is to make videos go viral — have to sort through hundreds or thousands of hours of video just to find a single video that is good material for going viral. Even once they find it, there is no guarantee that they can make it happen. And they are professionals.
This is similar to winning the lottery. Viral content thrives off of misguided hope. Sure, your cousin’s cousin may have won the lottery once, or you may have seen the Mega Millions winner on TV holding a check for tens of millions of dollars, but your individual odds of winning are infinitesimally small. You have seen lots of viral content, consumed a lot of it and you may even know the hydraulic press guy, but that does not make your odds of hitting it big any better. This is the case if your viral video involves trying to sell something — which the hydraulic press videos do not.
What, then? What are you to do if you cannot count on your business going viral?
The short answer? Create great content and put it in front of the right people every day. There is more to it than that, of course, but as Dylan mentioned in a recent blog, the best approach is to build trust organically, one person at a time. That is not as sexy, and it takes a lot longer, but it is much more likely to bring success to your business when worked in with a comprehensive marketing plan — especially if you are not selling a sexy product or crushing hockey pucks with a hydraulic press in your spare time.
I love (most) viral content, and I wish I could have seen hydraulic press guy’s face as his YouTube subscribers cascaded from 48 to 150,000 to 270,000 in a matter of days. Though, for the rest of us, it is better to develop great content and get in front of just the right people than it is to sit back idly and hope our content makes it to the front page of Reddit.
Image credit: CC by Eva_Blue