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#SXSWi 2014 Recap: Craig Key Explains Why The Idea of Going Viral Sucks

craig key viral sucks sxswi 2014

Craig Key, the media director of agency space150, started this 2014 South by Southwest Interactive session by introducing the idea that trying to go viral is a flawed mentality and we shouldn’t aspire to it. He explained that early viral videos happened when there was a fraction of the content being added as there is today, so it is getting harder and harder to ¨go viral¨ in the first place.

The main sticking point of why the idea going viral sucks it the mindset that luck is more important than planning and being witty is more important than being strategic. Instead, agencies and companies alike should focus on what they are really after. After all, Key stressed, viral is an outcome, not a strategy (just as winning the lottery should not be your retirement strategy).

Viral #Fails

Key then covered a few examples of viral fails. One was the Harlem Shake, which has over 2.9 million versions that people have uploaded on YouTube. Key states that:

¨ every brand did not need their own harlem shake. This is not how we create a brand/marketing strategy.¨

craig key viral sucks sxswi 2014

Key Takeaways

  • The Importance of Content + Distribution:  The truth is that most brands are not very good publishers. To get good, Key said brands should look at how publishers build their brands. As an example, 50% of any movie production budget is spent on marketing. According to Key, ¨brands making great content have only finished half the job of publishing.¨ This means that brands must also advertise it.
  • On Overall Strategy:¨Small changes every day will have much greater impact than trying to make the world’s best post one time.¨
  • Own the newsfeed through paid campaigns and engagement: When brands have engagement, it creates a story. If you aren’t thinking of it as making stories for your brand, then you’re not doing it right.
  • Create more occasions to buy: Align digital strategy with business goals.
  • When knowing when your content is good versus great: Don’t strive for perfect when you can ship great right now.¨


Photos taken by author.

Category Social Media
Kelsey Jones Marketing Consultant, Owner at Six Stories & StoryShout

Kelsey Jones is a marketing consultant, writer, and owner of and Kelsey has been in digital marketing since ...

#SXSWi 2014 Recap: Craig Key Explains Why The Idea of Going Viral Sucks

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