Updated: May 19
Unpopular Opinion: Why Going Viral Could Be Lethal for Influencers
If you want to keep this lesson short and sweet, head over to the video recap version of this post HERE.
Going Viral Is One Of The Worst Things That Can Happen To An Influencer in their career.
One of my clients recently went through this and I wanted to share an overview of how it went: - It's self-sabotage 🕺 Going viral is a lot like wanting to be a talented musician, but instead having one pop single blow up the radio. Do any artists come to mind? Exactly. Going viral and one-hit wonders are one and the same. - It's an energy suck 📉 Let’s talk about marketing myths and misconceptions surrounding virality on social media. Here are some reasons why it’s not all that and a bag of chips to go viral and what you can do if it happens.
Riding The Wave
You were keeping an eye on your audience’s comments and suggestions, keeping up with the type of content they most wanted to see from you. What you weren’t ready for was a massive spike in followers and likes that set you on a rolling wave that’s now on it’s way back down to reality, except lower than when you started.
First of all, aside from the metrics side of things, with all those new followers, that’s a lot of attention and glory you weren’t necessarily prepared for. Whether you get good or bad press does matter but either way you’re at risk for attracting a larger audience that’s generally not engaged with you in any other authentic way. And how can they be? They don’t know you or the type of content you have been working hard to craft over the years. It’s literally like being a book judged by its cover, regardless of the amazing messages inside.
The content you post directly after the viral post gets a lot of engagement because that algorithm is telling people your new content is still just as relevant as that viral post. But eventually that fades and the engagement on your page dies. It can take a really long time to go back to normal, or to figure out what a new “normal” engagement rate looks like for you. The worst part is that it looks like your presence fades because you aren’t equipped to serve this large new audience.
Missing The Target
When there are so many people reached, there’s no helpful targeting anymore. When such a diverse group of people get their eyeballs on your content all at once, ESPECIALLY if the virality came from some sore of negative press, finding your real converting fans again can feel like a needle in a haystack situation.
Now shouting from the rooftops to a big group of people who don’t really know you or have a meaningful connection with you yet is the fastest way to drive engagement rate down. And that’s a deal-killer when it comes to brand collaborations. Not to mention, it really makes it difficult to get the algorithm back on your side after such a crazy swing.
With a larger but more detached audience, there’s also less of a chance of conversion and authentic connection. Not only does going viral make it harder to know which of your followers are actually interested in engaging with you again, it could also cause you to miss the whole point of the platform you’re playing on. Reel in the ego for a moment and forget about vanity metrics. At the end of the day, if the attention doesn’t translate to something positive or valuable for either a brand, the followers themselves, or for you, then all the mentions in the world mean nothing. Don’t let a little extra attention make you lose sight of your “why”.
Losing Focus & Insight
Another unfortunate side-effect of going viral is that the future content you create is no longer in community-building effort, but rather in either offense mode or completely forced. I hate to use the word authentic because the overuse of it makes me nauseous, but here we are…To a new audience of people that aren’t familiar with the multiple facets or your personality and personal brand (or those who frankly are just there to troll), your tone can come across fake, detached, or “inauthentic”.
You may also miss out on valuable insights about what your audience ACTUALLY wants and needs from you. Skyrocketing to fame in an instant with all kinds of new attention from people of all walks of life doesn’t give you much to go on when it comes to knowing the interests and affinities of your true fans. That means you also have no idea what type of products and brands will resonate with them and that’s not a very promising look for you when Brands are considering you for sponsorships.
When you don’t know your audience anymore, it’s hard to speak to them in a meaningful way. Your platform is at risk for becoming like a news broadcast about you and your life instead of being about your community of followers. Be careful that it doesn’t put you too far out of touch with meaningful conversation and actually being social on social media.
Instagram vs. Reality
Going viral is like making a quantum leap that’s not only hard to recreate, but its also not sustainable. When you come down from the high of seeing your following count skyrocket, it can be a long and difficult way down. You’ll begin to see a sudden drop in engagement and followers and you'll feel drained and confused about why your content isn't resonating with your audience. Your mental health might be just as unsteady as all your metrics🧘.
Not only is your self-esteem at risk, but the determination to keep going may be on shaky ground. The unrealistic expectations you’ll develop for yourself and your content could be dangerous for your mental health and consequently could end up polluting the messages you publish. For example, we all know those people who post long, drawn-out essays about what they’re going through when they are clearly still heavily affected and should instead be focusing on getting help and clarity before pouring their hearts out online. You know what I’m talking about. You don’t want to be that girl.
The reality is that trying desperately to get your content to keep going viral is not a reliable strategy and since there is no surefire formula for virality, it doesn’t count as a goal either. All that will do is make you feel worse about yourself and your capabilities as a creator, which we definitely don’t want to happen. The amount of unnecessary stress over trying to repeat your virality would be better spent just focusing on making consistent, good quality, targeted and valuable content. Putting out quality content that has real thought behind it and delivers some kind of value… now THAT is an actual strategy.
What You Can Do If This Happens
The mindset work involved that needs to be done could be intense, but truly makes all the difference for a couple reasons. Your mental and emotional well being absolutely comes first and you cannot properly function for yourself let alone show up for your audience without first getting in the right mindset. With consistent guidance, reassurance, and a little time to get engagement rates back up, you can recover.
But now that you’ve reached a new level, the upside is that you have the ability to network with a new circle of people and brands that were previously out of reach. It’s important to focus back on building real connections and relationships. Make friends/find a sense of community not just with your followers but the other Influencers you’re at this new level with.
The most important thing you can do is get a coach, manager or agent to help you through this. Find someone on your side that will work to reverse the damage done and build a new approach that’s more sustainable and true to your purpose as a creator.
Good news! We can be that support system for you. Fill out an application with the influencer grapevine if you need help making a comeback from the viral plague on your account OR if you’re ready to just take your career as an influencer to the next level with a team of people who know how to help you succeed. We’ll build up your foundation and presence to be more professional, streamlined, and consistent. Clearly we understand that a clear strategy, consistency, meaningful connection and authenticity (ugh, there it is again) are really important. And we would love to help take all the guesswork out of navigating the implications of your newfound audience. Click HERE to connect with us!
About The Author
Katherine Pereda is the Founder and CEO of The Influencer Grapevine, a boutique Influencer Marketing agency based in South Florida. Her clientele list ranges from luxury houses such as Gucci, Roberto Coin, Acqua di Parma, Vacheron Constantin, Jitrois Paris, Cartier LatAm, and Jimmy Choo to beauty, home design, fashion, lifestyle, and wellness companies like Maisons Du Monde, Tampax + Always PURE, Home Made Simple by Procter & Gamble, Target, MintedLeaf CBD, and Agnes & Dora. Katherine has also worked extensively in experiential marketing for WantedDesign, New York Fashion Week, DesignMiami/, Glossier, Create & Cultivate, Miami Swim Week, Funksion Fashion Week, and Art Basel Miami. Now specializing in talent management, and brand campaigns, she helps influencers and businesses from all over the world gain exposure, connections, and collaborations to build lifelong relationships.