About fifteen minutes into my first day as a communication coordinator, I sat down at my desk, took a deep breath, opened a new journal, and wrote in its first page:
"Christ is the message."
I wrote this because I knew it wouldn't be long before I'd be tempted to make going viral my sole motivation for producing and communicating content, and I wanted to establish a habit of constantly reminding myself that what I'm doing is not about going viral. It's about communicating messages I believe are important.
As I see it, "going viral" is a digital expression of The American Dream. It's the attractive but inherently flawed notion that influence and wealth can be attained if people dream big , try hard, and manipulate their circumstances enough to get what they want.
Though the platform and means used may differ, many people have the same end in mind when they communicate what they communicate: influence and/or wealth.
This idea and the expressions of it are flawed, however, because they don't actually deliver on what they promise. Whether you're communicating about Jesus, selling a product, promoting your art, or simply sharing an idea or piece of content that is important to you, allowing the idea of going viral to be your only motivation will actually hurt your work.
Going viral equates success with having as many people as possible come into contact with the content you are sharing. Within this frame of understanding, popularity and volume of views is the end goal of any communicated piece of information.
But just because something is popular or has a high volume of views doesn't mean it will inspire lasting transformation.
Which is why the end goal of communicating content has to be facilitating transformation in peoples' hearts and minds. If what you communicate to people becomes popular but has no influence on peoples' hearts and minds, then your communication isn't effective. Your viral video or trending tweet will eventually be swept away in the wash of social media by the next popular cat fail video or 137 character witticism, and nobody will remember or be influenced by what you communicated.
So whether you communicate for a church, a not for profit, a small company, a large corporation, or yourself, you have to constantly ask the question: would I rather have what I'm posting transform the hearts and minds of 50 people, or, would I rather have what I'm sharing be viewed by 50,000 people, but have no influence on how they view themselves and the world?
Of course, the best communication results in both transformation and 50,000 views, but you have to ask polarizing questions like the one above if you're going to have any hope of keeping your motivations in check and being effective in communications.
And not surprisingly, the most effective communication happens when you think deeper than going viral, because making transformation your motivation enhances, rather than inhibits, clarity, impact, and creativity.
So whether you're communicating the the gospel or selling soft drinks with social media, you have to decide early on what your motivation will be: going viral or facilitating transformation.
It's best to choose the latter.