When going viral makes you sick

The word “viral” has somehow gained a positive connotation when it comes to social media, but it isn’t always a good thing.

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Of course, the viral wish always comes with positive intent, as in Nabisco’s creative Oreo tweets during the Super Bowl blackout, Red Bull’s impressive kluge video, and a personal favorite, the Grand Rapids lipdub. On the other hand, no one wants to go viral in the manner of Domino’s Pizza or Burger King.

The reality is, nothing goes viral on demand. As with an actual virus, the circumstances must be just right for it to spread. What grows with a bang today might have died with a whisper yesterday. That’s why I’m skeptical when a PR or marketing consultant promises a client to take a story viral; some people have the creativity and resources to increase the odds of a viral story, but in my experience few are powerful enough to make that guarantee.

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