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The Menace of Viral Content on Social Media

by Goddie Ofose
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You may not have forgotten the story of Mary Daniel as it was indeed a touching and sympathetic one. It is a story that is bound to melt any stony heart.

That it gained traction immediately it broke on the social media is not in any way surprising, as it is the type that makes an interesting and compelling read.

According to report, Daniel, an amputee had defied all odds to hawk sachet water in traffic, meandering through the labyrinth of the busy road with her crutches.

In few seconds, the content had gone viral eliciting empathy and compassion from the audiences, who, thereafter, responded with their generous donations.

Before anybody could say Jack, she had realized over #1 million from a fund raiser.

But the excitement generated over, the generous donations was short-lived as cold water was poured on the whole situation by the Lagos State government, which withheld the funds citing discrepancy and foul play in the ensuing narrative.

Her claim that she is an orphan was found to be untrue after her aunt blew the lid on the claim.

By this recent development, stakeholders in the marketing communications space are worried that the concept of content marketing is being compromised and hijacked by profiteers for altruistic purposes.

While these unscrupulous elements must have exploited the key elements of digital marketing including novelty, curiosity and emotion, which are necessary for a viral content, it is regrettable that this is being done on the altar of falsehood and half-truths.

There are unfounded stories that a ring is usually formed around most viral content shared in form of videos, messages and info graphics on the social media.

The ring network operates by first going on the look-out for content material or agent they can cash in on and when this is done, the next action is to capture a scene that is capable of evoking either a positive or negative emotion and in some cases a combination of both.

After the job is done, funds raised by swindling the unsuspecting public are then shared on a pro rata by all the parties involved in the shameful act.

Daniel’s story is just one out of the numerous tales that the social media over the years has been bombarded with, even as the platform continues to be a veritable tool that swindlers and conmen exploit to ply their illicit trade using the soft elements of digital marketing.

Some months before the Daniel story trended, there was a visual content on the social media about a young boy and her mother, who attempted scolding him for a misdemeanor.

The boy was seen telling the mother to calm down as if to indicate that she was too hasty in the reprimand of the boy. Before the content could be allowed to sink in, the social media buff had taken it and attracted huge traffic to it to a point the young chap became the boy of the ‘Mom be calming down’ fame.

But as a digital marketing enthusiast, what exactly was the message being conveyed with a content wherein a young boy refuses to be scolded for a wrong doing and such content is now being released to the consuming public. What exactly is the morality in the content? What is the lesson?

As beneficial as content marketing is, the bottom line is that any viral content must not just elicit emotions and curiosity as components of digital marketing, but it must do so on the plank of forthrightness and morality. That way, the goal of digital or content marketing would have been adequately achieved.

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