9 minute read.

6 common sense tips on how to go viral

Paul Anthony / June 25, 2009

Posted in: Archive

If you’ve been creating content online for any length of time, you’ll know that its important every once in a while to churn out a really great post that is both comprehensive, useful and will attract links from around the web by going viral.

Why would you want this? Well firstly you gain an influx of visitors. The secondary benefit is that you gain incoming links to your blog or site, which further reinforces and raises your position in the SERPs, which leads to further links in the future (when you get Googled and used as a reference).

To play the social media game, and create traffic from it you have to craft content that appeals to the social media audience. So if you have created something really great that you think is link baity, how best can you seed that viral content and make sure it launches with maximum impact?

Launch at the right time

launchSo you’ve really worked your ass off to create something great, and it has the link hooks that a great piece of content needs.  What part of the week is best to let it go out on?

The day of the week that you choose is important, because internet patterns of usage fluctate greatly throughout the week.

For example. The majority of people give the web a break at the weekend, and spend their time with family and friends rather than stuck at a monitor. Any web statistics I’ve seen have reflected that as well with traffic dipping at weekends. However it really depends on the niche you are targetting.

Understand the online behaviour of your audience by analsying traffic reports / industry knowledge is a good way to work this out. E.g. If the audience are within the building industry and you know that Wednesdays they are shut half days where most of them end up in the pub; probably not a great day to launch something targetted at them. More generally here are my own thoughts on when to press your publish button:

Monday‘s are the first day back at work after the weekend. People are more likely to start the week off energised, ready to work, and be more productive than any other day of the week. Content that is geared towards productivity or time saving tips etc therefore would work well on a Monday.

Tuesdays like Monday’s are quite good for launching linkbait on; its still near the start of the week, people are still enthusiastic about work, but are starting to browse the web more generally. It normally takes about two days for a piece of content to build enough momentum to go viral.

Wednesdays people have their mid-week dip, need entertainment and will respond well to boredom busters.

Anything later than that Thursdays / Friday’s are too close to the weekend and probably not a good idea to publish on. For a bit more insight / research on this its well worth reading Dan Zarrella’s link acquisition report post (and pdf).

Get your content in shape.

Be Unique

The web is full of enough regurgetated material, without you adding more to it. People enjoying reading something from a new and fresh angle, even if the subject matter is probably old hat. Putting that added spin on your content differentiates you from the crowd and makes you stand out. Dare to be different. That said you can learn from pieces that have gone viral before, and break down the components of why that has happened.

Be a resource

Provide enough useful content that is so jam packed with information, the viewer will be compelled to save it. Lengthy articles also tend to get saved and shared more often as they are a) of the read later category and b) they are more authoritarian.

Be attractive

Its not unheard of for great bits of content to go un-noticed and uncared for in the web community, for one, your idea of great may not be someone elses. But you could do worse than crafting yourself an awesome title. Brian Clark’s cosmo-headlines shows that people hunger after a catchy headline. Lyndon believes the majority of your time should be spent crafting a great title. I agree.

Images are also worth spending time on. Sourcing an eyecatching and engaging images could mean the difference between someone hitting save or not.

Network with the Notorious

2236507162_1901034d99A hierarchi exists on the web with the top bloggers (most subscribers) and top twitters (most followers) being pretty much one and the same. Of course there are exceptions with a few people gaining notoriety on the web for other reasons, and celebrities and certain notorious people in the offline world can easily make the transition into becoming users with a high follow count on Twitter.

So what? I hear you cry. Well the importance of this is that in order to stand a decent chance of going viral on the web, you have to get in front of as many people as possible, who both feel that the content is worth sharing , applicable to them and useful to others. Simply really. If they are compelled to share, you stand a good chance. If they happen to have 50,000 targetted followers / subscribers for a particular niche, you are pretty much guaranteed social sharing of your stuff.

Many of you however, won’t have the luxury of such exposure. You only get that over time. So make friends with the people that do. Guest post for them, chat to them over Twitter, offer free advice. Basic offline networking applied to the online world. If you are targetting Digg, their algorithm favours Digg power users, so getting your story submitted by one of them is a great start. They also favour established authority sites, and stories which would generally fail on smaller blogs could potentially win if placed on the right domain. Consider whether it is more worthwhile for you to guest post, or offer your content up to these sites in the form of guest posts. If you can persuade a power user to follow you and / or tweet / digg your posts, you are already halfway there.

It’s important to mention the difference between a targetted audience and a audience. Yes you can game Twitter, or indeed find ways of gaming more traffic to your site. But if you haven’t built it up from the bottom up – it’s not going to betargetted to a particular niche – its just random visitors with random interests. When content is shared to a targetted niche verses an untargetted one, it stands a much better chance of being reshared, and thus going viral.

Champion a cause

If you are a non-for-profit, giving people an opportunity to be philanthropic and tying that to your message is a great way of going viral. People will donate to causes if they can appear to have done so. Whilst I do believe in altruisim, I do believe that sharing or giving money to a cause isn’t always selfless, and the psychology of this would dictate that you stand a better chance of exposure if you optionally list the donators name and / or website address.  The mistake some people make with these messages are that you have to think along the lines of WIIFM – Whats in it for me.

This doesn’t always have to be about money or giving money. A cause could be something as simple as improving a developers working day. You just have to use a bit of imagination. People have and will contribute to a cause as a blind act of selflessness if you make it easy enough.

Make it easy

sharingMaking it easy for others to share your content is an often overlooked fact. The inclusion of sharing buttons isn’t going to work on its own, but if they are positioned in such a way that the sharing process is a piece of cake, so much the better. There are a few metrics that bloggers should measure, sharing is another one of them.

There are a variety of ways to do this. Sharing buttons, with  the various social networks listed within them e.g. Sharethis is my own weapon of choice. Another would be TweetMeme which easily allows your visitors to tweet your content, and potentially puts you on a list of the most tweeted content on the web.

If you treat it as a goal, or a conversion – you can learn what sort of content persuaded someone to share in the first instance. Don’t be scared to be outright and ask for it either, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

The other side of the coin is that if you share other people’s work, you are more likely to get your own shared, but be selective, and don’t taint your own image online by sharing stuff just for the sake of it. Sharing is a great way to show appreciation for someone else’s work.

Know your audience

The content that you create should be very targetted towards a particular profile of an audience. Brainstorm what sort of things your readers are interested in. If they work within the confines of a particular industry – what issues affect them? What things can you provide on your site that will make their lives easier? Can you make a parody of an issue that affects the industry?

All of these things can be turned into content related hooks that will get your audience enthusiastic about your content, and ultimately help you create something that is sticky, and brings people back to your site, as well as being something that they are compelled to share with others.

  • Blogging
  • content
  • hooks
  • link hooks
  • sharing
  • social media
  • viral
  • viral marketing