It has always been an accepted practice for a brand to create online content for viral consumption on a global scale. The thought is not without merit. Everyday we read about the “Average Jane” who uploads content to youtube that gets picked up and broadcasted in a “what’s hot” sensational fashion. Everyone wants to be a meme. Being a meme means that you will be copied, exploited, leveraged and hoarded. Dreaming of your work being virally received, pushed, liked, tweeted, shared, and posted in front of the entire world to see? You’re not alone.

Hold that thought…

Considering the amount of content that is published in an average second it’s becoming increasingly unrealistic for content creators to target viral growth on a global scale.

This idea that content should be pushed in that respect is self destructive. Consider the lifespan of a tweet.

“After analyzing over 1.2 billion tweets, the Sysomos team found that only 29% of tweets actually produce a reaction – that is, a reply or a retweet. According to Sysomos, just 6% of all tweets are retweeted and these retweets have a very short lifespan. Virtually all retweets happen within the first hour after the original tweet.” – source

Consider the lifespan of a Facebook post.

“According to a survey of twenty posts from five branded Facebook pages pages with 2 million fans or more, people stopped liking and commenting on branded Facebook posts 22 hours and 51 minutes after publication.” – source

Somewhere in a think tank at this very moment a dream team is crafting an idea and spending 99% perspiration on the delivery of their 1% inspiration.

This is madness.

The reality is that you probably don’t want to be a meme or viral sensation. If you become a meme or your content goes viral it will seldom be on the back of long term success. The community of individuals who decide whether or not that a content is worthy of becoming a meme are usually cynical, easily amused, and hungry for watching dumpster fire individuals. If you came to being an internet sensation on the heels of a healthy result you’re still in a tumultuous spot. Now you’ve been pigeoned-holed. Your shelf life is three months, tops. You’re “that guy” or “that group” and there will be nothing you can do to overcome it and you’ll rarely be able to capture that energy for a long term application.

What does this mean for youth leaders?

As much as I advocate the use of social media in your program I would never want you to miss the most important and emerging aspect of social media. Your network is local not global. Your efforts online are most effective when your creation is purposed and focused for local influence. I know this is not earth shattering news or new vision casting fodder but honestly it should and can evoke better thought out content.

Truth: Most brands and organizations are local. It would be better for us to shut out the audience outside of our zip code or outside of a 50 mile radius from our physical reach. Yes, you have the power of the internet to go to the world but long term and lasting online content will be generated on the slow grind of influence for those in your backyard.

Think of your own reach as a miniature world. Your globe is broken down into demographics within driving distance like the single mom, blended family, local high school, aging boomer, college student, etc. In your own backyard there are tiny nations of untapped cultures, decision makers, thought leaders, and early adopters. What do they care about? What is their hurt? motive? dream? cause? How do we speak to them? compel them? reach them? Who should do this and how should it be done with the tool of online work? This is not the question of a meme. A meme asks, “How can we get the world to notice us and talk about us?”

Be satisfied with dominating this tiny sliver of the world at large. Creating groundswell on a local level for your plans, conversations, and solutions is way more effective than trying to engage people who will never be able to darken the door of your place and space.

Study the tiny culture. Become a student of what people react to in your town, suburb, or block. There is a nuance to them and if you can uncover it, you will be heard. What mom and pop store do they frequent? What kinds of events do they attend? What music do they consume? Etc.

Lay out a content strategy that is local. Target local bloggers, journalists, musicians, organizations, non-profits, and people who are shaping the local culture in tiny ways. Don’t ask them to distribute “your” content. Instead, align your efforts in collaboration for those who pursue impulses and tension points that you hope your efforts can overcome. Celebrate them and work together to engage the local culture with digital efforts.

Share the local story. Respond to the emerging need and narrative of what is happening in your town when you create content. Story works better than gimmick.

Should you go viral… If through this approach you find yourself being hyper-shared in the world at large you will be satisfied knowing that it was on the heels of sustainable efforts that the people you do life with truly believe in. Shelf life will matter the least and the integrity, intention, and purpose of your content will remain.

For help with social media brand management and content strategy consult with me here.



  1. Ray Hausler April 3, 2012 at 10:25 am #

    This is great stuff! Thanks.

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