I’m sitting alone at a conference table. An account executive hands me a single sheet of paper. It’s a brief. On it are written four words.

 “Make us go viral.”

I awaken, sweating, my heart racing.

Thank goodness it’s just a dream.

I’m just kidding – my “work dreams” are never that scary. Anyway, going viral is easy. Here’s how:

Send a tweet from the wrong Twitter account. “Leak” some nude photos. Fall down in public. Have a wardrobe malfunction. Cry/dance/make out in the stands at a sporting event. Bomb a TV talent show audition. Go on The Bachelor. Give an interview to a local news station. Curse at a security camera.  

Enjoy your brief stint in Twitter’s trending topics — and Facebook’s, a few days later. If you play your cards right, you might get to meet Ellen. For your business or organization, “going viral” should not be a goal. And yes, there is such a thing as bad publicity.

However, if you want to create branded content that gets shared and viewed a bajillion times, we can help you with that. As long as we’re clear on the fact that’s not “going viral.”

As a metric, virality is flawed because it exploits one of social’s biggest weaknesses: the tendency to overvalue reach in the absence of measurable KPIs. It’s temporary and imprecise and doesn’t necessarily lead to conversions. “Viral marketing” is a term for strategies that rely on audiences to amplify brands’ messages. It is outdated. Because of social media, shareability should be a consideration for every piece of content you create.

You don’t want to go viral. You want to be shareable. Here are five characteristics that define shareable content:

Visually Appealing

Duh. 

Interesting

Entertain. Educate. Inspire. Go straight for the feels.  

Relevant

Timeliness is everything.

Aligned to Marketing Objectives

It may or may not be obvious to the consumer, but remember you’re selling something.  

Memorable.

Shareable content is sticky. Try to forget this ad. I dare you.