“It’s so easy to fall in love. It’s so easy to fa-a-all in love.” – Linda Ronstadt

Linda (aka the Taylor Swift of the ‘70s) was right. It is so easy to fall in love. Especially with the idea of creating viral content for your brand. Because people love viral stuff. They love sharing it. Quoting it. And remaking new versions of it.

And for marketers/advertisers, the idea of making something viral is so appealing because it’s like finding a secret code on a video game to jump right to the final level. It seems like a shortcut. A way to circumvent spending all the time and money that traditionally goes into creating and sustaining a brand campaign.

And honestly, that’s an attractive idea. Particularly for brands that may not be willing to compete over traditional media with the big-budget brands of the world. But it’s also a dangerous idea. Because relying on something viral to hit and hit big is like (get ready for a timely sports metaphor!) trying to hit a grand slam every time you get up to bat, regardless of whether the bases are loaded. But if you are looking to create branded viral content, there are some ways to make sure there are at least a few runners in scoring position:

Focus on quality over quantity.

Put the idea of trying to make viral content on the back burner and first concentrate on trying to make really good and really entertaining content. Take the original viral content: music. Most of history’s greatest songs weren’t created with the idea of getting 12 million hits. But they got big because they were really damn good songs. If the quality is there, the quantity will come. But you have to…

Have a plan.

And that plan can’t just be “put a video on YouTube.” That only guarantees you’ll have a video on YouTube. Your viral content needs to be launched, just like any traditional brand campaign. And that means it needs a strategy. It needs to be seeded with the right influencers. It needs to be focused on the right target. And it needs a plan to launch, gain momentum, and sustain that momentum. Which also means…

Don’t throw your brand out with the bathwater.

If your viral content doesn’t coincide with your brand and its voice, it could have unintended and unforeseen negative effects. You know, like cannonballing into an iced-over pool (video contains some adult language).