Going viral is hard. But it’s even harder to go viral twice. And it's proof that when it comes to content marketing, it's better to be smart than lucky.

Going Viral: Does Lightning Strike Twice?

Short answer: no. But there's more to this lesson.


by Dave Robson

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In late 2016, Furkids Animal Rescue and Shelters Cat Shelter, an outfit based in Atlanta, Georgia, shot a three-minute video and caught proverbial lightning in a bottle.

The very goofy video racked up five million hits on YouTube and it’s easy to see why. It’s fun. It has a cheesy Sarah McLachlan spoof. And it almost looks like they didn’t expect to go viral. It honestly looks like they threw this together in an afternoon and figured if a couple more cats got adopted, that would be the best outcome.

But this video went viral. Someone posted it to Reddit and views went through the roof. It got featured on news stories all over North America, Europe, and the Middle East. They picked up a huge amount of donations, gifts, volunteer applications, and most importantly, adoptions. They ended up doing a massive Q&A on Facebook. Their senior leadership was effusive in her thanks.

So you can see why, this year, Furkids tried again.

We can sit here and try to pinpoint why it isn’t as good as their first. The kids don’t know who Richard Simmons is? Too much of a tone shift?

But there’s a larger point to be made.  Going viral is hard. But it’s even harder to go viral twice.

If you scour YouTube, you’ll come across many examples of this. There was that cute little girl who explained Star Wars and went viral. Then her parents shot a video of her explaining the Holocaust and it just wasn’t so funny. Or consider L.A. based fashion retailer Wren Studio. Their 2014 short firm “First Kiss” showing complete strangers kissing for the first time became an Internet phenom, got the firm’s founder network airtime and launched a thousand parodies. At last count, it has logged almost 130 million views. We searched for a follow-up and found this. It has 149 views. As for the business? Wren’s website is now occupied by a squatter.

These stories remind of those lottery winners who blow the whole wad on a 12-month bender. Marketers who get a massive spike in views think they’ve made it. But without a strategy, they lack the ability to repeat success. They just got lucky.

Depressingly, even in 2018 we hear a lot of talk about “going viral”. And this is our answer: no one should count on a huge spike in views. More often than not, it’s not good for business anyway. More enlightened marketers know that content marketing success is a long game, and measured in regular small victories that ultimately build the bottom line.