Going Viral: Does It Help or Hurt?

This post is a guest post by Cyndy Aleo-Carreira, contributing editor at The Industry Standard.

Two stories have gone completely viral in the blogosphere this month; one I played a part in, and one I didn't. The first was the story of Dell's application to trademark the term cloud computing, a trademark that was all but a done deal until the blogosphere errupted in a righteous fury over a company taking advantage. From the first post on Google Groups to its coverage on Elastic Vapor and onward, the story spread like wildfire, finally culminating in a preliminary denial of the trademark that Dell may or may not appeal. If I were to guess, I'd assume Dell would drop the application, not wanting to incite the anger of the tech community, nor let its competitors gain press for what's certain to be an almost instantaneous protest of an appeal.

In the case of Dell, the outcome seems clear: Dell lost, the tech industry won, and the blogs and forums that pushed the story along certainly played a part. But what happens with a viral story that has no real winners?

The Bigfoot story may be that story. Since it's first coverage (some of it here on The Inquisitr), it's another story that spread at lightning speed, with one site after another either claiming the "find" was real, or expressing cynicism. By now, we all know that the story was a hoax, but there seems to be no winner. One of the individuals involved has lost his job as a Clayton County police officer due to his involvement. All three individuals are now known worldwide as liars. There seems to be no good that came out of the story.

Odds are that those involved in the Bigfoot hoax really had no idea how fast a story can spread. What seemed like a simple press release that might have gained a bit of local coverage snowballed, and the perpetrators of the hoax may simply have lost control of it. The idea of "going viral" is the dream of every entrepreneur, PR person, and blogger. It just may not have a good outcome.

Guest author Cyndy Aleo-Carreira is a contributing editor at The Industry Standard. She also writes about tech and start-up issues as well as freelance writing at Shakespeare I Ain't, and does a weekly podcast with The Inquisitr's own Duncan Riley at Things You Can't Say About the Internet on Talkshoe.