Why Using Your Digital Network to Support a Viral Strategy Will Fail.
With the success of Kony 2012 the concept of using your digital network to create a viral impact for a single campaign or message is a strategy that seems to be a more common request. It is not that your network will not share your content, the mistake is to assume just because of a connection with you or your brand they are an automatic source of rapid content distribution. Any plan to utilise your network for rapid content distribution is going to be very difficult to execute and in most cases will fail.
To get an understanding of what makes the concept of rapid content distribution through your digital network a challenge I have broken down a digital network into four segments and have looked at the opportunities and challenges for content sharing.
1. The Influencers
A the top of the value chain is the Digital Influences, they present the greatest opportunity for ontent distribution and as a result there is large amounts of literature providing strategic advice as to how to manage your most influential followers. The challenge is that the Influencers manage their network carefully, they do not usually forward content in the format it has been shared and will more than likely take the information and use it to create an alternate or supporting message. To be able to entice them to share you need to provide them with something of value, this is a challenge considering in order to achieve this outcome you will need to clearly understand their motivations and know what they will interpret as valuable content. If you do manage to successful share content through an Influencers network its distribution has the potential to be large.
2. The Distributors
The Distributors represents a small segment of your network and this group are always willing to share something of interest, the greatest opportunity is the Distributor puts very little effort into process of sharing and will usually forward on the content as it has been shared with them and your message will be shared as you intended. The challenge is that the content that they share to their Digital Network lacks consistency, one day it could be about the latest research and the next day it is a recipe for cooking cupcakes. The result is that their network is diverse and if you do manage to entice them to share content it may not be a message that is relevant or interesting to the majority of their network and distribution beyond this group will be limited.
3. The Consumers
The Consumers are the largest segment, they are valuable for their connection to you or your brand although in most cases they are not prepared to share, more than likely because they have never shared content in the past and are not likely to start. Even if they do decide to share your content the chances are they have a small or disengaged network which means the opportunity for further content distribution will be very small, so any effort to attempt to try and convert Consumers to Distributors for the purpose of creating some virality may be wasted.
4. The Sleepers
The less valuable segment are The Sleepers, they consist of members of your network who only connect with you or your organisation periodically, usually after what appears to be long breaks. Any sleeper who shares content usually does so in short burst’s and will share as much content as they can find before going back into hibernation. For their Digital Network it is usually a challenge to identify any relevant message and as a result the value of The Sleeper for content distribution is very poor.
A diamond can cut glass but you would not use your diamond ring for this purpose. Therefore strategies that look to tap into your network to drive a viral element in most cases is like attempting to cut glass with a diamond ring. Just as a diamond is valuable so is your Digital Network and through careful management they will over time become more engaged with you or your brand. As a result you may find their loyalty and advocacy is more valuable than any support they can provide in delivering your viral strategy for a single campaign or message.