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One of the most cringe-worthy things I hear too often is something to the effect of, “let’s create a viral video” for an upcoming campaign.  After all this time some of us still believe that “virality” is something you can create or buy.  It breaks one of the golden rules of social media which states…”the least likely way to achieve viral distribution is to try to create something viral”, or something like that.

Yet people try and try.  I came across a recent effort by Kia to find “the next YouTube Superstar”.  And right there in the Judging Criteria (scroll down on the rules) it lists “potential for virality” as the first criteria for entry.  Virality is not created, it is born.  The people at DECA have a great track record for nurturing talent, so I’m excited to see what they come up with…maybe they’ve cracked the code.  But I doubt it.  This is mini-American Idol, and even that enormous stage can’t ram “virality” down our throats.

If you need any further proof that virality explodes out of nowhere, consider the meme of Steven Slater, aka JetBlue Guy.  By one damn funny but totally sincere act he jettisoned into the social media elite.  Just like that…and that’s how “virality” happens.  It’s spontaneous.  It explodes.  You don’t see it coming.

Don’t make “create viral videos” a success metric or even a goal of your video contest campaign.  Make it a wish…a big one.  Rather, focus on the core value propositions of video contest campaigns…the unbelievable engagement, the listening opportunities, the highly targeted leads, the branding.  Of course if you execute with precision and focus on details you might, just might get lucky and end up holding a tiger by the tail.

But I’d bet my bottom dollar that you won’t have seen it coming.