Everybody wants to be viral on the Internet. This column will explain how I have done it in 4 different markets, over 15 years. My definition of “going viral” is creating content that receives more than one million page views per month, or just one piece of content with over 1,000,000 views each year. These are the four projects I have that meet this criteria:
- Borg war. I’m a journalist but I also enjoy animation. I made the Star Trek: The Next Generation fanfilm “Borg War” in 2006 using machinima. BusinessWeek called it “better than Star Trek Nemesis.” Borg War is now available for download and streaming with over 4,000,000 streams. (You can still find it on YouTube.)
- The Sales Machine. I began writing “Sales Machine”, a blog for CBSNews.com in 2007. This site is aimed at general business audiences. Sales Machine was a blog that covered politics, sales, marketing and corporate culture. It was written with line employees in mind. It was viewed over a million times per month by 2010.
- Sales source. I began writing this column in 2011 on Inc.com. Inc.com is a website aimed at managers and entrepreneurs. Before the pandemic, and an injury that took my right hand out of use, Sales Source had over one million visits per month. It reached 1.9 million views in Oct. 2019.
- (TikTok project). I will soon write more about this project, but I am keeping it secret for now. It’s well worth the wait, I promise. It’s enough to say, in spite of not knowing anything about the audience and using a platform I didn’t know much about, my TikTok project received 3,000,000 views within two months.
My experience has taught me that you must follow 5 rules to make your content viral.
1. Find out how your audience thinks.
It should be obvious that 99% of marketing content coming out of business is from “inside looking in.” The message starts with, “We’ve got this product we want to sell”, so let’s find out how to get people to purchase it. Small firms that have a strong “build a better mice trap” mentality will find this especially relevant.
To appeal to large audiences, you must first understand what motivates them and how and what they are interested in. Only then can you consider how to reach them. To get the right contact, you will need to make your audience watch what your content is about. You’ve failed completely with YouTube advertising
For example, with Borg War I had four Star Trek-loving friends who reviewed my “dailies”, gave me ideas and advice, and kept me focused so I could provide the best “fan service” possible.
2. Make something unique and pertinent.
Based on what you know about your audience, make something they’ve never seen before. Because everyone is constantly inundated with information, it’s important to find something that cuts through all the noise.
Sales Source is an example of this. I’ve often called out “bullsh*t”, on various workplace shibboleths, such as the open-plan office and PowerPoint. These sacred cows were the default setting for most online business writers. My readers became tired of hearing the same, old stories. I began to tell the truth.
3. Concentrate only on quality content.
Many people think social media is a game of numbers. The more you share content, the greater the chance that something will become viral. While it can happen, you don’t have to be creating high-quality work to go viral.
My content is something I obsess over. I do a lot more rewriting and reworking. One piece of solid content is better than a bunch of mediocre pieces. For example, when I work in animation I often watch an episode or clip 30 times before I feel satisfied. I then re-edit until it feels like my finest work.
4. Talk to every commenter.
Building a community is key to virality. This means engaging with your followers on a regular basis. Don’t let any comment pass unanswered. Thank them if it is praise. You can disagree with them if they are critical. Make fun of them if they are trolls.
It can be difficult to stay on top of your comments, but this is essential for virality and keeping it going. For example, with Borg War I had hundreds of interactions on many forums. Similar to Sales Source, I often spend 1-2 hours per day on @Sales_Source’s Twitter account.
5. Obsessiveness about numbers is a good thing
Lastly, and perhaps most important, make sure you check your numbers every time new data becomes available. Consider these numbers and their meaning. What is the difference between two posts that get twice as many visitors? What is the difference between one posting getting 100 comments and another receiving a thousand?
You can’t control what you don’t measure, so you need to know how many are seeing it and why. Also, you have to be able replicate success stories and prevent failures.
Note: I offer a limited number of consultation sessions to help people make their projects viral. Sign up on my personal website.
Publiated at Wed 18 August 2021, 08:14.32 +0000