In marketing today, there’s a huge misconception between virality and value in what I’m calling the “Powerball Paradox.” On one hand, there’s the ever-present need to spread your messaging far and wide- while on the other, there’s the realization that shares and likes don’t pay the bills.

Simply put, virality doesn’t breed value, whereas the reverse is possible. By understanding the difference, you will begin to shape your efforts around the customers and create a stable foundation for the future. Instead of living on a prayer or duping the desperate, consider giving the customers what they really want and not playing into the Powerball Paradox.

For the power of virality, you needn’t look any further than the recent events surrounding the nearly $600 million dollar Powerball Jackpot. Whether you were on Twitter, in the office or reading a newspaper, you just couldn’t escape it. The country was sensationalized by the prospect of instant riches. Even after the drawing, the focus turned towards identifying the winners and the return to everyday life for those who already spent the windfall in their dreams. Capitalizing on the attention, along came a genius and somewhat sinister photograph that become the most viral event in the history of Facebook.

With the help of Photoshop, programmer Nolan Daniels crafted an image of him holding what appeared to be the “golden ticket.” In a spat of creative genius, the simple image bore the caption, “Looks like I won’t be going to work EVER!!!! Share this photo and I will give a random person 1 million dollars!” In conjunction, the photo and the caption were enough to warrant over 100 likes and shares per second– over 200 million in total. While he may not have hit actual gold, he surely struck social media gold in a way we are unlikely to see ever again.

Dubbed a “master troll,” Mr. Daniels’ case is an extreme example of the willingness of the crowd to get involved with social media promotions. Because it’s so simple to share and like content through social media, it’s practically harmless for individuals to do so. Everyone likes the idea of winning something and with this hoax the stakes seemed huge.It was like Powerball inception- everyone who participated was collaborating, dreaming and waited, and eventually, they were all let down.

As marketers, it’s important not to do the same for your customers. While promotions may be a great way to blast the masses, to keep them coming back, you’ll have to give them more than hope. People will only wait around for so long. Unless you’re marketing for a casino in Vegas, it’s foolish to bank of the compulsions of customers to engage with unlikely odds. It’s like trying to trick a horse with an imaginary box of carrots, instead of offering up a few along the way. Like a horse and buggy, customers are what pull yourbusiness forward and they want a return on their investment, not a gimmick. Value on their end will drive value on yours. Your endgame is their satisfaction.

Since he had no endgame, Mr. Daniels is basking in the sunlight of a job well done and reaping the benefits of his 60 seconds of fame. His only value was a glimmer a hope that dissipated as quickly as it came. He’ll be soon forgotten into social media lore and realize the meaning of “easy come, easy go.” His lie was the epitome of the Powerball Paradox and it left disappointment in the hands of the participants.

For marketers, true sweepstakes promotions are a valid way to build brand awareness- but it’s not as easy as raffling something away. Assuming there’s a real winning chance, if you’re planning on using a gimmick to get people’s attention, make sure to have a follow-up strategy in place. A properly orchestrated promotion can be a real launch pad for success by sorting out the prospects from the crowd and giving them a reason to come back for more. While virality can be a great thing, I’d take value any day.

How do you orchestrate value online for your customers?

Originally Posted at Mr Ryan Connors Blog