By the time you read this post, all of the #AlexFromTarget shenanigans should be behind us. Hopefully. In one of its most glorious moments of "why the heck not?" the republic of the Internet made this teenage bag boy at Target an instant celebrity. This was one of the quickest rises to meme-based stardom that I've seen in a while, helping this random kid garner over 400,000 Twitter followers overnight.


While most of the world worked on crafting their attempts at a clever #AlexFromTarget meme, the rest of us social/digital marketers trying to make our brands achieve levels of internet success on purpose were left scratching our heads.

I've been working on a content strategy for a new client the last couple of days, thinking through audience, channel purpose and success metrics very meticulously. When I saw Alex achieve viral fame for no apparent reason, my initial reaction probably looked something like this.


Is success on the Internet really just dumb, stupid luck?

Yes and no.

It depends on how you're measuring success.

Sure, no matter what some pundits tell you, there is a stroke of luck involved in seeing massive web success. I would be the first to tell you that Board of Man was a lucky break at the end of the day. We didn't have a well thought out strategy when we started. There were no goals or benchmarks that we were aiming to achieve. We just happened to strike Pinterest with the right idea at the right time. An idea that happened to resonate with thousands of people.

However, with that luck, we were able to learn. The team I worked with didn't just sit back and high five ourselves (though we did high five other people). We looked at what other factors  (other than luck) contributed to our Pinterest success. And we learned a lot. We applied what we learned from luck to other business-related client projects.

Even if virality is often based on luck, there are many extremely successful campaigns that most people haven't heard of. Just because a brand's video or online campaign wasn't heard around the world, that doesn't mean that brand isn't effective online.

Spend your time and energy doing what works for you and your brand(s) online, not what worked for others. Don't let a random internet lightning strike guide your strategy. Learn as much as you can from those random viral moments - but don't count on them.

Even if virality is often dumb luck, it doesn't mean we need to give up. While one stroke of luck may win the day, consistent quality strategic thinking will win out over the long haul.

What do you think? Is virality luck? Or skill?