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7 Warning Signs Your Viral Marketing Strategies are Screwed

sick-virus“What am I missing?” You wonder.

Part of you wants to ditch your entire viral marketing strategy, and forget about the whole online business entrepreneurship thing forever.

And yet, here you are, reading this post, trying to figure out if there is any reason why things aren’t going according to plan.

Of course, it’s not that you haven’t tried. You have. You have done everything the expert marketers say to do.

And yet, the viral effect you hoped for is not taking place. The rapid multiplication to explode your message to thousands, and even millions of people around the world is not happening.

What could you possibly have done wrong along the way?

What is the secret difference between you and all the other successful people who have done this?

What in the world have you done (or not done) to screw things up so badly?

What is the secret to viral marketing?

Well, I’ll tell you seven possible reasons your viral marketing strategies aren’t working. Let’s start with number 1…

1. You Have No Idea What Direct-Response Copywriting Is

The truth is, if you don’t know what direct-response copywriting is all about, you are doomed to fail before you even start.

Here’s why:

Making your content go viral (in whatever form) is all about getting people to take the action you want them to take. That’s what direct-response copywriting is all about. It’s about getting people to respond to you exactly the way you want them to.

If you can’t do that, there is no way you can get any result from your campaign.

So I guess the question is: do you want to fail? If not, then get busy learning copywriting starting today.

2. You Don’t Value the Importance of Headlines

So let’s say people are highly interested in your topic – you’ve researched this – you know they are.

You have used Google’s Keyword Tool to find out there are at least 120,000 people searching for your main keyword every month. The Facebook fan pages in your niche have a minimum of 20,000 people. Because of all this, when you put your content out there it will spread faster and everything will sail smoothly, right?


Because you see, going viral is not about the number of people searching for your topic every month. Neither is it about the number of fans or followers in your niche.

It’s all about the headline.

The headline is the most important thing that will determine whether your content spreads or not. The more attention you pay to it, the better your bottom line gets. The less attention you pay to it, the worse your bottom line gets.

Why? Because if people aren’t attracted to your work in the first place, why would they tell others about it?

So the next time you’re creating something to spread all over the web, pay more attention to your headline. It needs to be sinfully delicious to your readers. It needs to benefit them in some way in exchange for their valuable time.

(If you want to do a deep dive on writing great headlines, Eugene Schwartz’s book Breakthrough Advertising is a great place to start.)

3. You Don’t Have Any Guest Posts Promoting Your Campaign

To tell you the truth, guest posting is hard work. Many new marketers avoid it because it can take so long, and feel so risky. You have to ask another blogger to accept your idea and to do that, you have to get to know them first. Even harder is when it’s time to write the content. You have to shoot for the very best quality, and that takes time and a lot of thinking.

But if you do it right, it can be one of the best things that has ever happened to you – especially if you’ve got a piece of content that you want to see go viral.


Guest posting isn’t just for promoting bit new products or services, or for building strong relationships – you can also use it to highlight a specific piece that you’ve created, or small campaign that you want to go viral. Just reference it in the post and include it in your by-line.

It’s that simple, and all of a sudden hundreds and thousands more people are being exposed to your work.

4. You Have Spent Less Than 10 Hours on the Content

What’s one of the easiest ways to make sure your viral marketing strategies fizzle out without so much as a YouTube view?

Simple: by creating mediocre content.

You have a good idea, so you sit in front of the computer to work on it. Within an hour or so – Bingo! You feel like you have something truly remarkable. Something so stunningly awesome people can’t help but talk about it, right?

Not a chance.

Here’s why:

No matter how brilliant you are, you cannot create something truly remarkable, something people will talk about for a long, long time in 45 minutes.
You have to do better than that.

You should spend at least 10 hours on creating your viral content piece from start to finish. At least. In some cases, you get to spend less but for the most part, 10 hours minimum is the standard you should hold yourself to, if you want to create something worthwhile.

Good things take time, and that is as true of online content as it is of everything else.

5. You Don’t Know What Keeps Your Readers Up at Night

Okay, show of hands:

Who else is sick and tired of having a really good idea, spending hours upon hours on it and then when you put it out there, nothing happening with it?

Want to know why that’s happening?

It’s because you don’t know your customer and what keeps them awake at night.

Jon Morrow popularized this concept more in the blogosphere, and it’s golden.

Check it out! It’s counter-intuitive I know, but try it. It will work wonders for you.

6. You Don’t Have A Goal

Lots of people who have a viral marketing campaign plan have no real purpose for what they are doing.

They give out free e-books with unrestricted access because that’s what everyone is doing. They pay a lot of attention to headlines because that’s what everyone is doing. They put social media tools in place to help spread the word because that’s what everyone is doing.

They do everything because that’s what everyone is doing, and for some vague idea of “getting more traffic, subscribers and conversions.”

And if you are one of them, you need to stop.

You need a clear, measurable goal for each viral campaign you run. Do you want more subscribers or page views? Extra activity on social media? More comments on your posts? More personal email with your readers?

Whatever it is, you should know what you want to achieve, and by when – of you can’t measure what you’ve accomplished, you can’t adjust anything to make improvements.

And you never learn how to do better.

9. You Want to Become Successful on Your First Try

Does this sound familiar:

Your campaign is good to go. Everything is in place, and everything feels good. You check it out, and it all fits to the advice of a popular marketer you so much believe in. In other words, since everything is perfect, you should be wildly successful even though this is your first time doing this, right?

Don’ worry – most of us have felt that way at one point or another.

Here’s why:

The more you keep doing something the right way, the better you get at it.

On your first try, or even your first few tries, you probably just don’t have the practice and experience yet. It’s okay – you’ll get there!

Creating good, feasible viral marketing strategies take time! Don’t expect to have the biggest success on your first try. This is not a one shot thing. You have to keep showing up constantly, and you have to keep becoming better the next time.

And it will hurt so much while you are at it, because you have a target, and you can’t get there yet.

But isn’t that the price you pay for trying to become super successful at anything?

So, don’t walk away from this.

Because I know you can do it. And you know you can do it.

So go do it!

About Sam Eddy

Sam Eddy is the founder of The Extraordinary You. If you'd like to learn more about what it really takes to accomplish extraordinary things, check out his blog onself-discipline.

32 thoughts on “7 Warning Signs Your Viral Marketing Strategies are Screwed

  1. All of these tips are really good, but something seems missing… Shouldn’t you also be working to understand the emotion you are trying to tap into on the viewer’s end? When things “go viral” it’s usually because the video, post, image, etc tapped into some strong emotion that then elicits a share. A LOT of times, viral content is not so good, or it breaks a lot of “rules”…

    Why was “Gangnam Style” so popular? Because it was absolutely ridiculous! Nothing in that video made any sense whatsoever. It made people laugh, the beat was catchy, everything was so tacky…. viewers couldn’t *not* pass it along.

      • Hi Sam,

        Empathy is definitely important… But, it seems to me that it’s only a starting point and it’s one piece of a bigger picture. My point really was that if you just go in trying to solve your target market’s problems, even if you pay attention to all the points you mentioned above, *and* even if you’re content is really good, it still may not go viral.

        You also have to take into consideration things like having the appropriate medium for your audience (i.e. video, text, imagery), as well as how are you going to approach their “pain point.” There are many different paths to choose from: will you do it through humor, tear-jerking, offering something insanely useful, story-telling, some of these things together?

  2. This was a great list of tips. One of the BIG ones that I think way too many beginning marketers miss is having a measurable plan. Thankfully I figured that out early when I found myself in that place – wanting to write things that would go viral and . . .

    . . . and realized I had no idea what I was trying to get people to DO. What was the end result I was trying to achieve? I see an unfortunate amount of that going around. 🙂

    The the other really good point that was made has to do with knowing what keeps people up at night. Tapping those emotions to ensure that you get a response when they see your work. 🙂

    • Lindsey, thanks.

      Unfortunately, most people don’t have a plan for what to do with all of the traffic they get if their content goes viral, and it’s sad. If you don’t have a plan, you’ll just be running around in circles.

      Also, you get major brownie points for highlighting the point about knowing what keeps readers up at night. That’s very important.

  3. Thanks for. The dose of reality. It does take me 10 hours to do a post. I thought I wasn’t doing something right. It just makes it difficult to post 4-5 times a week. The other points I am working on.

  4. Jennifer,
    Don’t post 4-5 times per week. I think Jon Morrow was the first guy I heard say that. But then I went to Sam Eddy’s website (he wrote this post that we’re commenting on), and his most recent post features a conversation with Pamela Wilson. She gives the same advice: “Instead of publishing a post every day on your blog, you focus on publishing only one well-written, well-thought-out post on your blog per week.”

    So keep putting in the time to create remarkable content (just not 4-5 times/week). And after you’ve posted it, go promote it like crazy!

  5. I thought the comments here were just as helpful as the post itself – especially Trevor mentioning that a piece of content needs to be promoted like crazy. That is good advice.

    That said, I don’t agree with a hard and fast rule of spending 10 hours creating a piece of great content. That’s fine if it is required but if you know your customer and inspiration strikes great content can be produced relatively quickly – especially funny cat videos, eh Susan? 🙂

    Another point is that goofy things like cat videos or funny pics going viral is not the same as a good or helpful blog post going viral. We can’t compare the two. It is easy to create a funny meme and get 10,000 shares. Researching and writing a decent blog post and promoting it correctly (much of which Danny covers on this blog) is a completely different beast. Try different things and measure the results. Keep what works and chuck out the rest. That is the approach that really works.

    • I agree with what you said, about cat videos and blog posts going viral, not being the same thing.

      That said, I find that creating something worth going viral, even if inspiration strikes, takes me more than 5 hours. The 10 hours is not a hard and fast rule.

  6. The ten hours stopped me, too, but then I realized I did spend about that much on a 3-part (3-day) post.
    Result? Folks flocked to the intro, the story, but not so much to the other two parts–the problem and the solution. In other words, I did not help people.
    I think I did not use good enough headlines, for sure, and also, Ive found a crowd that is interested in entertainment, in my story-telling, more than reality.
    In the future I will try for the long post, not so many per week, although I wonder if 1600 words is too long.
    Thanks for this great and helpful post!

    • Katharine, you’ve given yourself a taste of your own medicine.

      If your post isn’t helping people or useful to the reader in some way, you won’t get the results you hope for. Also, 1600 words isn’t too long, as long as it isn’t filled with fluff.

  7. I thought I was the only spending 10+ hours on one post. I’m such a perfectionist and won’t post anything unless I’m totally satisfied with it. I go through great detail to research and optimize every point that I feel like I’ll never get done sometimes. When it’s finally done, however, I am pleased with it. Glad I’m not the only one!

    • Hey Joe,

      If you are the perfectionist you say you are, how come you left out ‘one’ after ‘I thought I was the only’? Granted that this isn’t your post, only a comment, but a perfectionist is always a perfectionist, and that’s only one reason why he’s a perfectionist!

      Aspiring to perfection, delivering great – not very good, or acceptable – value, and doing it consistently over a longish period of time is what makes a perfectionist. It’s easy to feel satisfied with what one has achieved. What’s difficult is to measure up to the expectations of the customer, visitor, etc.

      I think that’s the whole point of this post by Sam – only genuine hard work pays, even online. Taking the pains is what constitutes such work, and delivering genuine value is what makes customers/clients come flocking.


  8. Great to meet you, Sam. You really nailed it with the “10 hour post” theme!

    In fact, that might make a great post all by itself. I know I’ve seen both JB Truant and Jon Morrow mention this in their “why you blog sucks” posts.

    My best and most popular post took me about TWENTY hours to compose, and I was exhausted by the time I clicked Publish. I had, however, taken the time to contact 5 published authors for their input; created a multi-layered graphic to hammer home my post’s point; and revised the post several times based on feedback from my interviewees.

    50 Comments and quite a few Shares later, I had the pudding’s proof of what Sam asserts in his bullet points. Could I mirror that success week in and week out? Nope! But the lesson is there.

    Thanks for a superb round-up, Sam.

  9. All the points are good advice. The one struck me was gaining momentum with guest posts. This seems like the hardest since reaching out to the big bloggers and sites might see me attempting to reach their clients, subscribers or view me as an annoying fly. With this said it won’t stop me in trying. Also the ten hour post makes sense. I will definitely be putting in some hours to create new content… and headlines. Thanks for this helpful information.

  10. Hello Sam,

    Great article! I really like point #4, especially because I am a big perfectionist. Even if I don’t aim for virality, I always spend a huge amount of time writing my articles, cross-checking references and sources, etc.

    I also totally agree with you on the headline. A lot of people don’t polish them.

  11. I would like to bring to your attention the following error made in this post. It is minor, but should be corrected. As a perfectionist and an editor, I would like to point it out. The letter “f” should be changed to “r” in the word “of” in the following sentence of this post:
    Whatever it is, you should know what you want to achieve, and by when – of you can’t measure what you’ve accomplished, you can’t adjust anything to make improvements.
    That’s all.

  12. The Master’s class is really helping me properly target my audience like I never have been able to before. It took me 2 years to scrape up 200 subscribers on my former blog and literally within the course of 1 day I was able to get 40 new subscribers without even guest-posting yet. Planning makes all the difference.

  13. Pingback: Wonder where I’ve browsed this week? 18 linksMadison Woods | Madison Woods
  14. Hi Sam,

    maybe it’s just me but I find something disturbing about someone writing content from the outset with the intention to ‘go viral’.

    There are two things in my view worth concentrating on – writing something you want to write (i.e. something you want to share that you think is worth saying) and writing with your reader in mind (and therefore providing as much value as you can to that reader as you can). Maybe this equates to ‘Why?’ and ‘How?’.

    Beyond that, whether your content goes ‘viral’ or not should really not be a point of focus but rather a nice surprise if it happens.

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